Zebulun and Naphtali. Have you ever been there? I’ve never been there. They kind of sound like strange places, don’t they? Zebulun and Naphtali.
We hear about them in two of our readings. What’s up with these places? Well, they were in the northern part of the Kingdom of Israel on the Sea of Galilee. In the 8th Century B.C., they were hit especially hard by the invading Assyrians. People there were killed or exiled. Even once the exile was over, things were just never the same. Galilee became like the "wild west" of Palestine (minus the cowboy hats) – a rough and unruly place with bandits and revolutionaries; it was a place where a large pagan population had mixed with groups of unsettled Jewish residents. Even during the time of Jesus it was a place still marked by suffering, loss, failure, defeat, gloom, hardship, devastation and degradation.
Have you ever been there? Have you ever been at a place in your life marked by some suffering, loss, failure, defeat, gloom, hardship, devastation and degradation? I know I have. Maybe you’re there right now, whatever it might be — struggles in your own life, with a relationship, or even from the world in general. I think most of us have probably been to “Zebulun and Naphtali.” Instead of those being strange places, perhaps they’re sadly all too familiar.
Yet, Isaiah has this prophecy regarding Zebulun and Naphtali: “Anguish has taken wing, dispelled is darkness: for there is no gloom where but now there was distress. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.” And it was to Zebulun and Naphtali that Jesus (Light from Light) goes to begin His ministry and to announce that the people should turn again towards God because “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Zebulun and Naphtali would have been unlikely places to experience light; they would have been unlikely places to experience the Kingdom of God. But that’s how God likes to work a lot of times.
Brothers and sisters, let us not doubt that the light of God’s Kingdom can touch upon the dark places of our lives and our world. This may not happen all in the way or the timing that we would prefer, but God has a way of bringing good out of bad. That’s the Paschal Mystery. The key to bringing about this transformation is the power of the Cross of Jesus Christ. It is through the Cross and Resurrection that Jesus conquered sin and death. And we encounter this sacred mystery in tangible ways through the Sacraments of the Church that are here for us.
Now, if part of that 1st Reading from Isaiah sounds familiar, it’s because you might have heard it just recently, on Christmas Eve. Now that the decorations and lights of Christmas have come down, it may seem like the world has gone back to being more dark and bland. Yet the message we hear today is one of hope as we move forward. We belong to Christ, and He calls us to Himself, while, at the same time, coming to us with His healing and saving power. He is our light and our salvation. “Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.”
©2017 St. Peters Catholic Church Huron Ohio.
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