3rd Sunday (A)
Tourists were visiting the famous cave. While they were below ground in the giant cave, the lights went out. Among those trapped in the darkness were two children: an eight-year-old boy and his five-year-old sister. The situation was scary, especially for children. Suddenly the little girl began to cry. Then her eight year-old brother was heard to say, “Don’t worry. There’s a man up there who knows how to turn the lights on again”.
The story is a beautiful illustration of the prophecy of Isaiah in the first reading. It is the same prophecy Matthew applies to the coming of Jesus in today’s Gospel: “The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone”.
Indeed, before the coming of Jesus, the world was dark and scary. It was just like the famous cave after the lights went out. The darkness was so great and so scary that many people began to cry. Into the midst of this terrifying situation came the reassuring voice of Isaiah. The prophet promised the people that a great light would soon appear to take away the darkness. And Isaiah’s promise reached fulfilment in the coming of Jesus Christ.
Spiritual writers tell us that what happened to Israel as a nation happens to each one of us individually. In other words, there are times in our lives when the lights go out and we are left in darkness, just as the people were living in darkness before the coming of Jesus. Or to use the image of the famous cave, there are times in our lives when the lights go out, leaving us standing in darkness like a frightened five-year-old girl. At times like this we need to know that there is someone up there who knows how to turn the lights on again.
Perhaps we know many good examples of what we are talking about. When I first read the article about Darryl Stingley, pro football player, I felt he is the one of the examples. He was one of the pro football players. But when he was 27 years old, he was paralyzed from the chest down. Now he can use only one hand and gets around in an electric wheelchair. The light went out for him. But he never gave up. He knew there was someone up there who could turn the lights back on again. He believed the prophecy of Isaiah. “The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone”.
And when the light went on again for Darryl, it went on brighter than ever. He is still confined to a wheelchair and unable to walk, but he has a whole new vision of himself and life. In an interview with Newsweek magazine, Darryl insisted that in some ways his life is better now than it was before.
“I had tunnel vision,” “all I wanted was to be the best athlete I could, and a lot of things were overlooked. Now I’ve come back to them.” He said that his tragedy had changed his life for the better in a surprising new way: “This is a rebirth for me. Not only physically but spiritually….I really have a lot more meaning and purpose to live for now than ever before.” Those are incredible words from a young man whose dreams of football stardom lie dead and buried in an electric wheelchair.
But you hear the same kind of words from hundreds of other people who have gone through similar periods of darkness in their lives. When the lights went on again for them, they went on brighter than ever.
And the same can be true for us. The death of a life-long spouse, an unexpected rejection by a loved one, a smashed dream of business success, the loss of good health---all of these things can throw our lives into temporary darkness. But when a tragedy like this strikes us, we need only remember Isaiah’s prophecy: “The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone”.
We need only remember the little boy in the cave, who told his frightened sister. “Don’t worry. There’s a man up there who knows how to turn the lights on again “We need only remember the words of Darryl Stingley: “This is a rebirth for me. Not only physically but spiritually….I really have a lot more meaning and purpose to live for now than ever before.”
And when the lights go on again for us---as they surely will ---we will find that they will go on brighter than ever,
by Fr. Fumio Sukegawa