Reflection for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.
Any reader of ancient philosophy or classics will be conversant with Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.” The narrative is cast as a dialogue between Plato’s teacher Socrates and his brother Glaucon and talks about a group of people sitting but chained in a certain cave. Opposite them is a wall that also serves as a screen on which they can see shadows of people and animals moving about outside the cave when the sun rises. After being in the dark cave for a long time and seeing the shadows, they all concluded that the shadows were real animals and people.
Sitting in Darkness
The First Reading from the Book of Isaiah (8:23-9:3) is a prophecy that was fulfilled in the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ. So likewise, the Gospel of today (Matt. 4:12-23) mirrors the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah while narrating how Jesus moved to Galilee to begin his public ministry after his baptism and the arrest of John the Baptist.
The prophecy’s dominant idea fulfilled in the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ is that the people sitting in darkness have seen a great light. This sounds like the people represented in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. To sit in darkness and do nothing about it means a lot, so let us dwell on some of the implications of sitting in darkness.
Ignorance: Sitting in darkness and appearing comfortable with it can only be a product of ignorance, in other words, lack of appropriate knowledge. The prophet Hosea (4:6a) says: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”
In one of his instructions to the Ephesians (4:18), St. Paul discouraged them from the lifestyle of the Gentiles, who had their understanding darkened are alienated from the life of God due to their ignorance at work n them. In short, ignorance is equal to darkness.
Confusion: This word fits to describe the situation of those in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. Confusion arises when one’s focus and sanity are thrown apart by contending factors amounting to multiple errors for every decision made.
Being in darkness engineers and sustains confusion. For instance, you may mistake a wall for a door in the darkness. So, why would anyone sit in darkness if the individual is clear about where to go? Confusion persists if darkness tarries until the light shines.
Limitation: Another index of darkness is the experience of limitation, which also means being restrained or restricted. The description, “those sitting in darkness,” clearly indicates that the people are limited to the point that they only need to sit. Even if they walk, it is still the same because nobody makes progress in darkness, as the next step is unclear.
The True light that Shines in Darkness
The closing part of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, which we did not present earlier, shows that one person in the dark cave eventually escaped to the real world. Then, with the sunlight, he saw real humans and animals walking around and realized that all they saw in the cave were shadows because it was all darkness.
Light changes all things because it unveils reality. Nothing worthwhile happens until the light comes. Recall that before God started the creation, He said: “Let there be light, and there was light” (Gen. 1:3).
Following the event at the beginning, the Gospel of John (1:9) says: “the true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” And when Jesus began his ministry, he said: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but have the light of life” (John 8:12). So, with the coming of Jesus, the light came for those in darkness.
The Impact of the True Light
Life: The first effect of light is vitalization; everything comes to life when light shines. The Gospel of John (1:4) says: “In him was life, and that life was the light of mankind.” We see here that there is an organic relationship between life and light. No wonder God introduced light before creating life.
Joy: Light gives birth to joy. The First Reading tells us, among other things, that when that light shines on those in the land of gloom, there is great rejoicing. Joy is light-dependent, just as darkness brings sadness and gloom. The joyful is always lightful!
Deliverance and Salvation: Those in darkness are in the bondage of sin and need deliverance and salvation. The First Reading again tells us that the yoke that burdened them, the pole on their shoulder, and the rod of their taskmaster are smashed; this followed the introduction of light. The salvific and ultimate part is that the light leads our souls to God.
Discipleship: The First significant event after the manifestation of Jesus Christ as the light shining for those sitting in darkness was the call to discipleship. Simon, Andrew, James, and John left everything and followed him. Light will only be useful if it brings people to it. So, we can also define discipleship as the ability to see and follow the true light.
Moving Forward: Becoming the Light in our World
Wherever darkness exits, two things are implicated: there is no light, or the light is not shining to dispel the darkness. Because of this reality, our Lord Jesus Christ not only said we are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). He also added that our light should shine (Matthew 5:16).
Today, we are the extensions of our Lord Jesus Christ, the true light, so our light must shine to the unveiling point that people seeing our good works will give glory to God (not to us) because we are just reflections of the true light. So, as you march out today, go with the consciousness that you are a light shining to bring life, joy, deliverance, and salvation to others, much as you remain a true disciple and will disciple others in the direction of the light.
I am a light in the darkness, and you are, too, so let us keep shining! God bless you.