Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A

Matthew compares the arrival of Jesus on the scene to the coming of a great light to a people who had been living in deep darkness. He saw Jesus as fulfilling the great prophecy of Isaiah: “The people that lived in darkness have seen a great light; on those who dwell in the land and shadow of death a light has dawned.”

Mother Teresa gives us a beautiful example of a man who was brought out of darkness into the light. One day in Melbourne, Australia, she visited a poor man whom nobody knew existed. The room in which he was living was in a terrible state of untidiness and neglect. There was no light in the room. The man hardly ever opened the blinds. He did not have a friend in the world.

She started to clean and tidy the room. At first he protested, saying, “Leave it alone. It’s all right as it is.” But she went ahead anyway. Under a pile of rubbish she found a beautiful oil lamp but it was covered with dust. She cleaned and polished it. Then she asked him, “How come you never light the lamp?”

“Why should I light it?” he replied. “No one ever comes to see me. I never see anybody.”

“Will you promise to light it if one of my sisters comes to see you?” “Yes,” he replied. “If I hear a human voice I’ll light the lamp.”

Two of Mother Teresa’s nuns began to visit him on a regular basis.

Things gradually improved for him. Then one day he said to the nuns, “Sisters, I”ll be able to manage on my own from now on. But do me a favor. Tell that first sister who came to see me that the light she lit in my life is still burning.”

At first he didn’t like the light. He felt threatened by it. It made him uncomfortable. Why? Because it showed the misery in which he was living; first of all the physical misery, then the misery of spirit. But gradually he came to see it as a friend, which comforted him and brought hope into his dark existence. Thus he slowly turned his life around. The light had saved him. Of course, it wasn’t the lamp itself that had done this, but the kindness and goodness it symbolized, first in Mother Teresa, then in her Sisters.

In order to appreciate a light, one must be conscious of one’s darkness, and desire to escape from it. One must realize one’s need to change, and want to change. Before people seek redemption, things must go badly for them. They must have experienced the darkness of sorrow and disappointment. Then they are ripe for the light of salvation.

This is why Jesus began his preaching with the message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.” To repent is to admit the darkness in which we are living, and to open ourselves to the light. We show our repentance by a new way of living. To be saved is to have come out of darkness into the light.

Each of us has areas of darkness in our lives – fear, illness, pain, sin, guilt, loneliness, and so on. Society too has its dark areas. Hence our need of the light of Christ. Though the light comes as a friend, it also disturbs because it shows what is wrong.

There still are many people who live in darkness and in the shadow of death. We need the light of Jesus now more than ever. Fortunately the lamp Jesus lit continues to burn, a glowing goodness that illuminates the world. It burns in the lives of many of his followers like you. The light of Jesus did not come to judge us, but to save us, to show us how to live, to show us the way to the Father’s Kingdom. Consider lighting a lamp for someone who is in a dark place.

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