Homilies | Posted 25.01.2017

‘The People Living In Darkness Have Seen A Great Light’

“The people that lived in darkness has seen a great light.”  (Matthew 4:16)

The people in the villages, farms, small towns of Galilee were oppressed with anxieties and fears: heavy taxes imposed by the Romans; cruel bullying rulers in the form of the Herod dynasty; debt and poverty; it was a struggle merely to survive.   There was a general belief that the environment had been invaded by evil spirits, invisible but powerful, able to ruin a person’s mind, and even inflict damage on their bodies.

In our age similar stresses are around us, even though we do not talk of demons and evil spirits.  Each country tries to protect itself materially with armies, and patrolled borders; but there is also the mass of invisible forces that range everywhere: viruses carried by animals, especially migrating birds; invasions through  the internet, where one country can penetrate another’s computer systems, steal secrets, alter data, sow viruses.   People easily develop an underlying anxiety from a fear that there are all sorts of mysterious forces around us striving to do us harm.   And maybe we should admit that some of these forces are spiritual; not just viruses or bacteria, but actual unseen powers that prey on our minds.

All of this paints a pretty dark picture to the point where we forget that there can also be good spiritual influences which can enter us and aid us.   To let these help us we need to open ourselves up, let down the drawbridge, and welcome them into our hearts.   For as Jesus goes into Galilee he announces a kind of invasion; a good invisible energy is entering the land: it is powerful, it is revolutionary, it can change the world.  It will do this by expelling evil and establishing goodness.   Here at last we have light that can help people throw off the darkness.

But it is a peculiar thing about us.  Often we will hang on to something negative, because we are used to it.  We adapt to the status quo, even if it is bad, and we become very nervous if anything comes along to alter it.  Thus we find Jesus encountering opposition, not only from devils and demons, but from his own folk at Nazareth, from the religious leaders, from intellectuals who don’t like any interference with their ideas.  Some will accept Jesus, come under his spell so to speak, and find he has great healing power. They will be transformed into different characters, discard their old fears and doubts: they will thrive as believers in the good news.  However this is not automatic.  Jesus begins by saying ‘Repent’.  He is warning the people that they can only receive the good force of the kingdom of God if they first turn from the old paths.   Whoever we are, we are challenged by Jesus: he is bringing heavenly influence into our world.  Will we cast off old ways and accept it?  If so we can be transformed, like Peter, Mary Magdalene and so many others.