Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds

1/7/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (

The forces arrayed against Christianity can be daunting.  It seems as though the average person has no power or influence to change things for the better.  However, the Christian is not called to be "average," but to be a saint.


By Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds

Catholic Online (

1/7/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in Year of Faith

Keywords: Gospel of Matthew, Year of Faith, homily, Galilee, repentance, sin, light of Christ, Nazareth, Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds, St. Theresa Sugar Land

SUGAR LAND, TX (Catholic Online)  Beginning around 740 years before the birth of Christ, the Assyrian empire invaded and occupied the land of Israel.  As part of their strategy of subjugation, a substantial portion of the local population was dispersed, being replaced by people from other conquered lands.  More deportations followed in subsequent centuries.

While a few Jews remained, Galilee and the surrounding territories were given over to Gentile settlement.  Thus the words of the Gospel of St. Matthew, quoting the prophecy of Isaiah:

Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,

the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan,

Galilee of the Gentiles,

the people who sit in darkness

have seen a great light,

on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death

light has arisen

(Matthew 4:15-16).

When Jewish patriots reconquered Galilee in the century before Christ, the region once again became home to large numbers of Israelite settlers, who returned to their ancestral homeland.  It was probably during this time that Joseph's family, and perhaps Mary's too, returned to Galilee and settled in a new town they called Nazareth.  In fact, archeologists tell us that the area around Nazareth was only occupied when a group of descendents of King David made it their home in the late second century B.C.

Due to these migrations, Galilee underwent a series of transformations.   From being part of the Kingdom of Israel, it was repopulated by Gentiles.  As a result, Jesus' base of operations, while traditionally a part of the Jewish homeland, had a mixed population and a culture that was Greek as well as Jewish.  In addition, the land was by that time occupied by the Romans, who brought their own religion, customs, and laws.

This cultural climate forms the backdrop to Jesus' public ministry, so much of which was carried out in Galilee.  Isaiah describes this land as "overshadowed by death" (Matthew 4:16).  The Jewish inhabitants of Israel would understand this reference immediately.  Ravaged by war, destruction and exile; torn apart by forced evacuations; existing at that time under the yoke of an oppressive foreign government, Galilee was an early experiment in ethnic cleansing.

But as so often happened in Jewish history, a remnant of faithful remained.  They honored the covenant and awaited the coming of the Messiah.  He is the light of Isaiah's prophecy, who brings hope and healing to a world torn apart by human pride and excess.

There is another sense in which the land was overshadowed by death.  In addition to the litany of human suffering and injustice inflicted upon the Chosen People, they were living in a fallen world, one in which the grace of God was not fully operative. "Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam" (Romans 5:14).  Only God can remove the darkness of sin, and he chose to send his Son as the instrument of that liberation.

The first step in being freed from the darkness of sin is conversion.  "Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand," Jesus proclaims (Matthew 4:17).  This is always the starting point of the Lord's preaching.  Openness to conversion and interior repentance, even if it is not yet fully realized in us at any given moment, is the beginning point of our redemption.

"The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus' proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel.Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1989).

Like the Galileans of the first century, we also live in a culture that seems to be "overshadowed by death," with little reference to God or to authentic human flourishing.  The forces arrayed against Christianity can be daunting.  It seems as though the average person has no power or influence to change things for the better.

However, the Christian is not called to be "average," but to be a saint.

"A secret, an open secret: these world crises are crises of saints.  God wants a handful of men 'of his own' in every human activity. And then...pax Christi in regno Christi - the peace of Christ in the kingdom of Christ" (St. Josemaria EscrivŠ, The Way, no. 301).

Are we ready to embark upon the adventure of sanctity?  At the beginning of a New Year of grace, and within the context of this special Year of Faith, there is no time better than the present moment for accepting our divine vocation to grow in holiness of life.  This is not simply a work of human effort, as if our wills were sufficiently powerful to shield us from all sin and temptation.  It is first and foremost the work of the Holy Spirit, who wants to transform our lives and to enrich them with the fruits of holiness.

This is why, despite the darkness around us, we are people of hope.  The light of Christ is still radiating his divine energy and power, which is why St. Paul can encourage us to be "children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life" (Philippians 2:15-16).  May we take up that charge and live it with serenity and peace.

As ever, we turn to our Blessed Lady.  Alone among all creatures, the light of Christ filled her completely.  She is ever ready to intercede for us, teaching us how to approach her divine Son in holiness of life.

Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds is pastor of St. Theresa Catholic Church in Sugar Land, TX, a suburb of Houston.  You may visit the parish website at:


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'

© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for September 2014
Mentally disabled:
That the mentally disabled may receive the love and help they need for a dignified life.
Service to the poor: That Christians, inspired by the Word of God, may serve the poor and suffering.


More Year of Faith

The Sower. The Seed. The Field. Understanding the Christian Mission Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith Fournier

"A sower went out to sow. And, as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for ... continue reading

A Meditation on the Sacred Heart of Jesus: My Heart to Gods Heart Watch

Image of

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, O burning furnace of divine Love, you are the symbol and summary of the whole mystery of our Redemption.  O mystery of mysteries, an infinite Love which no vessel can contain emptied itself into a finite human vessel of love-and so became ... continue reading

Reflection on the Catholic Catechism: Understanding the Bible Watch

Image of

By Michael Terheyden

How we interpret the Bible is of immense importance! It directly affects what we believe about Christ, the Church, and our faith, but it is also related to many of the grave problems in our society and the world. Yet, despite the gravity of this situation, we have good ... continue reading

Christ the King, the Year of Faith and the Catholic Counterculture Watch

Image of On this Solemnity of the Feast of Christ the King, the Year of Faith inaugurated by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI comes to a ceremonial end. However, in reality, it cannot and will not end, because Jesus Christ is King! The Year of Faith was only the beginning for those who choose to live the Life of Faith.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

We celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. It is one of many opportunities the Catholic Church year offers to each one of us to consider the creature called time, receive it as a gift, and begin to really live our lives differently.  This is one of ... continue reading

The Bones of Peter, the Successor of Peter: Close of the Year of Faith Watch

Image of The bones of St. Peter the Apostle

By Deacon Keith Fournier

On the Solemnity of the Feast of Christ the King, the Sunday which marks both the end of the Church Year and the end of the Year of Faith, inaugurated by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Pope Francis greeted thousands of the faithful and presided over Holy Mass and the ... continue reading

Fr Randy Sly on Becoming a House of Prayer Watch

Image of Jesus drives the money changers from the temple. 

With hearts clear and focused on our Lord, we can follow the advice of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Everything starts with prayer. Love to pray--feel the need to pray often during the day and take the trouble to pray. If you want to pray better, you must pray more. The more you pray, the easier it becomes. Perfect prayer does not consist of many words but in the fervor of the desire which raises the heart to Jesus. (Fr. Randy Sly)

By Father Randy Sly

Becoming a House of Prayer is the best discipline we can take on. St. Ephraem of Syria states that Virtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves temperance. Prayer suppresses anger. Prayer prevents emotions of pride and envy. Prayer draws into the soul the Holy ... continue reading

Jesus Weeps and Offers the Path to Peace Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith Fournier

If this day you only knew what makes for peace- but now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides. They will smash you to the ground and your ... continue reading

The Kingdom of God is Among You. What Did Jesus Mean? Watch

Image of The Christian vocation is, of its nature, a vocation to the apostolate as well. Indeed, we call an apostolate every activity of the Mystical Body that aims to spread the Kingdom of Christ over all the earth. (CCC#863)

By Deacon Keith Fournier

In Jesus Christ, the Kingdom has been inaugurated. Upon his return it will be made complete and fully manifested in a new heaven and a new earth. We are members of the Body of Christ which makes it present here and now - as seed and sign for a world which is in labor. ... continue reading

Year of Faith: Bringing the Feast of the Presentation of Mary to Life Watch

Image of The Feast of the Presentation of Mary is celebrated in both the Eastern and Western Churches. It recalls the day in the life of the Jewish girl named Mary (Maryam) when her parents, Joachim and Anne, presented her to the Lord in the temple and dedicated her life to Him.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

On this Feast of the Presentation of Mary, let us make the choice to surrender ourselves to the same Lord who Joachim and Ann honored when they presented their dear daughter in the temple. Their daughter, Mary, became the Second Eve. The New Creation was born through ... continue reading

WEDNESDAY HOMILY: Our Lady's Encouragement Watch

Image of

By Fr Samuel Medley, SOLT

I got off the subway at Termini station and went up to the busy streets of Rome.  I had to walk past the place where all the prostitutes gathered.  I looked down at the street and began to pray in fear.  Suddenly I heard a feminine voice say, "Be a man!" ... continue reading

All Year of Faith News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Exodus 23:20-23
20 'Look, I am sending an angel to precede you, to ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 91:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 10-11
1 You who live in the secret place of Elyon, spend ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 18:1-5, 10
1 At this time the disciples came to Jesus and said, ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 2nd, 2014 Image

St. Leger
October 2: Leger was raised at the court of King Clotaire II and by his ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook

Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter