by Father Mike Stubbs
ecently, I heard about a remarkable innovation: eyeglasses with lenses that enable a person who is colorblind to see colors.
These glasses open a whole new world for those individuals. They react with great amazement and tears of joy at what they see.
Sunday’s first reading, Is 8:23 – 9:3, draws upon a similar image in describing what God is doing for the people living in parts of Israel, “the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali . . . the land west of the Jordan, the District of the Gentiles.”
At the time of the prophet Isaiah, the people in these war-torn parts of Israel are suffering greatly. Soldiers marching through the fields have devastated the crops. Enemy forces have inflicted defeat upon their country.
The people have become vassals of the Assyrian Empire and are no longer free. They are living in emotional darkness and gloom.
But God will bring into their midst a light that will dispel that darkness. As a result, they will feel great joy: “You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing.”
This joy is compared to the joy that comes from three experiences in the lives of the people that will reverse their woeful current state.
First of all, it is similar to the joy that farmers feel in reaping a plentiful harvest, “as they rejoice before you at the harvest.” They will experience this harvest instead of their ruined crops.
Secondly, the joy is similar to that which a victorious army feels in dividing up war booty, “as people make merry when dividing spoils.” They will enjoy victory instead of defeat at the hands of their enemies.
Finally, the joy is similar to that which captives feel when they are released from bondage.
These could be war prisoners, slaves indentured servants. In any case, God is setting them free from the effects of war: “For the yoke that burdened them, the pole on their shoulder, and the rod of their taskmaster you have smashed as on the day of Midian.”
The words of the prophet Isaiah promise hope to the people of his time. Those words continue to promise hope to all those who live in difficult situations.
As Christians, we identify the light which brings this great joy with Jesus Christ. In every age, he continues to bring joy to those who dwell in gloom and darkness.
He is the light of the world.