This Sunday, the last of the Epiphany we celebrated the light of Jesus illuminating our lives as we are challenged in the world of 2020. It is important to look back at the social condition in Jesus time and at the sociological framework of the Gospel writer. These factors greatly influenced the description and understanding of Jesus for them. Matthew looked back to a time 50 years before his writing to a pre-Resurrection Jesus in an effort to explain the transforming power and presence of Jesus. The Christians and the known world were in turmoil when Matthew wrote. His words brought peace and hope to the followers of the Jesus message of love in a hate-filled world.
Today, we look many sources of world stress. We see the destruction of Syria, the plight of refugees, the fears of the extinguishment of the planet, fear in our children and grandchildren about a safe future and the rise of intolerance. It is a dark time! It is in the midst of this we are called as were the early church members to a different vision. We are called to live in hope and love. To love our enemies. We are called to be patient and tolerant, working to understand and be empathetic of differing viewpoints. We are called to set aside violence. In short, to be transformed from the dark ways of the world and to be lights in the darkness.
Wade Davis is a Canadian anthropologist from Vancouver. He always maintains that there is no confusion between science and spirituality. Spirituality answers the questions of "why" while science answers the questions of "how". When these get confused such as in theocracies where politics, religion and science get all mixed up in a confusing mess of pseudo-science based in pseudo-religion used by political power to manipulate the people with false half-truths. This happened in the ancient world and is happening in the modern world. The net result is violence, pain and suffering. We see this in the lives of many refugees whose home countries use religion as a foundation to 'other', demean and act in prejudice against minorities. We see this in the use of religious doctrines to deny climate change and blunt attempts to work at solutions. The ever present temptation in stressful times is to minimize and run to safety. However, the teaching of Jesus calls us to transform our thoughts and actions away from darkness and fear while moving toward the light and love of Jesus, the Light of the World.