Today’s readings are filled with contrasts: rich and poor, darkness and light, division and unity, withdrawal and leadership. Speaking to us today, Isaiah offers the image of rich nations being humbled. He foretells the coming of a savior from the poor, lowly land of Galilee. The second reading revealed the division in the early church as the newly baptized searched for their identity, aligning themselves to the one who baptized them. Paul had to remind them that the fledgling church had only one leader, Jesus, the crucified and risen Christ. Paul boldly challenged the people of Corinth, and challenges us today, to be “perfectly united in mind and thought.” In our Gospel, we hear that Jesus (who was, indeed, perfectly united in mind and thought with God) withdrew after hearing of John’s imprisonment, moved to Capernaum, and from there began calling forth those who would be his disciples. Finally, Psalm 27 proclaims “The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?” We can imagine David, and even Jesus, calling out to the Lord in their darkness and fear. Two millennia later, we continue to call upon God to lead us out of our darkness.
In our human experience, it is difficult to truly know the strength of the light unless we have experienced some form of physical, emotional or spiritual darkness. We can’t know the peace of unity without experiencing the pain of division. We can’t know the impact we can have on one person or on our world without seeing the emptiness caused by solitude and scarcity. Historically, division has had disastrous results. In the United States, divisive elections fractured a country that now struggles to unify. Following in the footsteps of Isaiah and Paul, luminaries such as Mahatma Gandhi, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and today, Pope Francis have shown us that we can live lives of peace and unity. Our challenge is to find methods to apply them in our country, in our communities, in our workplaces, in our homes, in our places of worship, and most importantly, within ourselves.
When we truly examine our hearts, where do we dwell? Do we dwell in the darkness that is ignorance and self-righteousness? Do we go through our days with an “us vs. them,” or “mine vs. yours” mentality? Do we withdraw and hoard our God-given gifts and treasures from those who truly need them? While we are dualistic by nature, God is not an either/or God. God is a both/and God.
In today’s readings, God meets and walks with us in the darkness, in the division and in the solitude, calling us to light, unity and action. In the busyness of our days, how often do we ignore God, who is constantly and lovingly calling us to this wholeness?
Throughout our lives, the tension between dark and light, division and unity, withdrawal and leadership is one way God draws us into a deeper relationship. As we go forth this week, let us look at our lives and contemplate how God is calling us from our own physical, mental or spiritual darkness into light, from our unthinking words and actions that divide to words of peace that have the power to heal and mend relationships. And let us to consider the gifts and talents we can share with others who are struggling.
How many of us can honestly say we are “perfectly united in mind and thought” with one another and with God? That is today’s challenge.