3rd Sun [A] 2011

Fr. Charles Irvin

3rd Sun [A] 2011
Isaiah 8:23-29; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13; Matthew 4:12-17

When Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left His hometown of Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, that the prophecy of Isaiah might be fulfilled: Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen. From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

In our times, what forms of darkness do we live in? The theme of light and darkness runs through the entirety of the Bible starting with the Book of Genesis all the way to the crucifixion and death of Jesus on His Cross. What is God’s word calling us to see in His light, not only in the history of our salvation that is presented to us in the bible but in our own particular and individual histories? What forms of darkness overshadow us in our own lives?

They are many — loneliness, rejection, betrayals of our love and our friendship, family feuds, the loss of the love we once knew, divorce, unfaithfulness, to name just a few of them. The threat of terrorism darkens all of our days. The depressed economy looms over us with its loss of jobs and inability to find work. Then there is violence and death on our border with Mexico, along with the darkness that covers our nation’s politics. In our individual lives we must so many times deal with loss, loss of our loved ones, loss of our ideals, loss of our hopes and our dreams. Loss is always a time of darkness – so very many times in our lives we suffer losses. We are members of the human family and too often we suffer the consequences that flow from decisions made by others. Human sins have their effects on us, sometimes directly, most of the time indirectly. Many times we suffer forms of darkness flowing not only from our own decisions but from the decisions of others. God’s will is that we be responsible. It is not God’s will that we act irresponsibly or sinfully or in ways that bring pain to ourselves and to others.

What is the importance of the light that comes from God, the light that shines in the darkness that surrounds us? When you look into the lives of great people you will come to discover one common golden thread that weaves throughout them all. They all did not allow adversity to flatten them, to drain them of their courage, to empty them of their faith and their hope. None of them were deadened by the dark spirit of defeatism, that evil spirit that is one of the devil’s most effective weapons. The Light of God of which I speak is God’s Holy Spirit, the One who was present in God’s creation when God overcame the darkness and uttered His creating command: “Let there be light.” Everything that exists originates in the energies found in God’s Light. 

When one loses hope one thrashes around in real darkness. When one loses courage and simply gives up, one’s soul is deeply darkened. Our great heroes and heroines did not allow themselves to yield to defeatism. The stories of Washington, Lincoln, Joan of Arc, Mother Teresa, Florence Nightingale, Pope John Paul II, Mahatma Gandhi, and the stories of our other greats all share one common theme – they never allowed the flame of faith and hope to be extinguished within them. In the face of total darkness there burned within them a fire that we Christians call the flame of the Holy Spirit, that Spirit that raised Jesus  from His dark tomb into the light that was the dawn of God’s New Creation. 

Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.

Am I distressed by the political warring going on in the halls of our Congress? Yes, I certainly am. But do I think the end of our Republic is at hand? No, I certainly do not. Am I distressed at the attacks launched worldwide by Islamic extremists? Yes, I am. But do I think they will bring about the collapse of Western civilization? No, I certainly do not. Can an alcoholic find recovery? Yes. Will our American economy return to full employment? Yes. Is there life after betrayal by a loved one? Is there life after divorce? Yes. Things may not work out exactly as we may have hoped and intended, but things will eventually work out.

On October 29, 1941, U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill visited his old Alma Mater, Harrow School, to speak to its graduating students. Churchill stood before them said, “Never give in, never give in, never; never; never; never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense”

Albert Einstein did not speak until He was 4-years-old and did not read until He was 7. His parents thought He was “sub-normal,” and one of his teachers described him as “mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in foolish dreams.” He was expelled from school and was refused admittance to the Zurich Polytechnic School. He did eventually learn to speak and read, even did some math!

Henry Ford failed and went broke five times before He succeeded.

Babe Ruth is famous for his past home run record, but for decades He also held the record for strikeouts. He hit 714 home runs and struck out 1,330 times in his career. He once declared: “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”

Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.


Jesus confronted the forces of darkness by turning Satan’s victory into everlasting defeat. The Bible personifies the forces of darkness in giving them a name — the Prince of Darkness, Satan, or Lucifer. As members of Christ we must do the same confronting in our lives. St. Paul reminds us that we, in Christ, carry on that epic struggle against the forces of darkness arrayed against us.

It is the intention and goal of the Prince of Darkness to disable you from revealing God’s presence here on earth. He accomplishes that purpose by filling us with thoughts of inferiority and inability, by filling us with a sense of failure and futility. The Prince of Darkness likewise presents you with seductive opportunities, or with concerns that absolutely captivate your attention and keep you from considering the presence of God within your heart, mind, and soul. You can identify Satan’s presence when you encounter doubt, discouragement, disillusionment, depression, defeat, despair, and finally death – the death of God’s life in your soul. When we encounter those works of Satan you and I need to expose them to God’s Light, the Light of the World that we receive from Christ. That is why coming to Mass and receiving Our Blessed Lord in Holy Communion isn’t something that is simply “nice,” it is essential.  It is truly the Bread of Life that nourishes and sustains us, particularly when we feel weak.

And so today I leave you with this vision of St. Paul who in writing to the Roman Christians who were suffering in dark persecution:

What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will He not also give us all things with him? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39)

Do not allow the work of the Prince of Darkness separate you from the love of God that comes to you in Christ Jesus our Lord. Along with Jesus at your side, snatch victory out of defeat.

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”