When St Matthew (Matthew 4:14 – 15) cites the Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 9:1);
“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.”
he invokes a lot of Israelite history.
We all grew up with the story. The twelve tribes of Israel were captive as slaves in Egypt until God commanded Moses to lead them to the promised land, more or less modern Israel. When they got there, they were not a nation, let alone a kingdom. They were a loose confederation of tribes. King David, almost three centuries later, unified the twelve tribes into the kingdom of Israel that the Old and New Testaments of the bible use as a metaphor for the people of God. David gave a unified kingdom to his son Solomon, who did OK. However, Israel, as a kingdom, split under Solomon’s son Rehoboam. To the north was Israel and in the south was Judah, with the center of worship, the temple in Jerusalem.
Some three centuries later (722BC) the country of Israel (the north) was invaded and destroyed by the Assyrian Empire. Zebulun and Naphtali were two northern tribes that the prophet Isaiah uses to symbolize Israel. Israel, the chosen people, are broken by division and self absorption. In Christ, God returns to the promised land, symbolized by Zebulun and Nathtali. Jesus Christ came to heal us and bring us unity. Our problem is that, like the ancient kingdom of Israel, Christians today succumb to division and self absorption. In the gospel we hear about Christ calling the apostles. At the Last Supper, Christ promised to send the Holy Spirit to the apostles so that they could know, proclaim, and preserve His Truth. We have, in the teaching of the Church and in Sacred Scripture, a sure norm for life. Even more we have the presence of Christ in the sacramental life of the Church. However, because God grants us free will to choose our path, we do not always embrace the presence or teaching of Christ. This, really is the source of disunity in Christianity, and even in the world. What can you and I do to bring unity and peace to our world? We need to start by working on our unity with God and with His Church. We need to hear the word of God proclaimed by the Church and really recognize the presence of God among us; in the Eucharist, in the sacraments of the Church, in the worshiping community.