Study and Meditations on this Sunday's Scripture Readings: January 23, 2011

I will do that. I lector on Wednesdays, and some of the readings can be difficult to understand - especially NT Letters, if you can believe that! It helps a lot to know what they mean in context. So much of the NT is revealing the OT.

I can believe that! And some (like Hebrews and Revelation) are impossible to even remotely grasp if you don’t have recourse to the Old Testament background, at least in general.

Gospel - Matthew 4:12-23

In the interval between last week’s reading and the one we hear this week, Jesus has spent 40 days in the desert; at the end of which He is tempted by the Devil. Overcoming the temptations, He begins His public ministry.

The Baptist’s mission, of proximate preparation for the Messiah, ended when John was arrested by Herod, because he had publicly denounced the king’s adulterous association with his brother’s wife. Jesus then began his own mission, and moved from near the Jordan in Judea up to Galilee. He continued John’s call to repentance, “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He chose his first four disciples near Capernaum and worked many miracles around Galilee. In this missionary activity of Jesus in Galilee, Matthew sees fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, given over 700 years before. True freedom, and the true light of faith, have come to that once oppressed region.

Here is the Gospel Reading as we will hear it this Sunday:

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested,
he withdrew to Galilee.
He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea,
in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali,
that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet
might be fulfilled:
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.
From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say,
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers,
Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew,
casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.
He said to them,
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
At once they left their nets and followed him.
He walked along from there and saw two other brothers,
James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.
They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets.
He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father
and followed him.
He went around all of Galilee,
teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom,
and curing every disease and illness among the people.

From the Navarre Bible Commentary (with RSV-CE text):

**From: Matthew 4:12-23

Preaching in Galilee. The First Disciples Called
*[12] Now when He (Jesus) heard that John had been arrested, He withdrew into Galilee; [13] and leaving Nazareth He went and dwelt in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, [14] that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: [15] “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, toward the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles-- [16] the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” *

**15-16. **Here St. Matthew quotes the prophecy of Isaiah 8:23-9:1. The territory referred to (Zebulun, Naphtali, the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan), was invaded by the Assyrians in the period 734-721 B.C., especially during the reign of Tilgathpilneser III. A portion of the Jewish population was deported and sizeable numbers of foreigners were planted in the region to colonize it. For this reason it is referred to in the Bible henceforth as the “Galilee of the Gentiles”.

The Evangelist, inspired by God, sees Jesus’ coming to Galilee as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. This land, devastated and abused in Isaiah’s time, will be the first to receive the light of Christ’s life and preaching. The messianic meaning of the prophecy is, therefore, clear.

[17] From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

17. See the note on Matthew 3:2 This verse indicates the outstanding importance of the first step in Jesus’ public ministry, begun by proclaiming the imminence of the Kingdom of God. Jesus’ words echo John the Baptist’s proclamation: the second part of this verse is the same, word for word, as Matthew 3:2. This underlines the role played by St. John the Baptist as prophet and precursor of Jesus. Both St. John and our Lord demand repentance, penance, as a prerequisite to receiving the Kingdom of God, now beginning. God’s rule over mankind is a main theme in Christ’s Revelation, just as it was central to the whole Old Testament. However, in the latter, the Kingdom of God had an element of theocracy about it: God reigned over Israel in both spiritual and temporal affairs and it was through Him that Israel subjected other nations to her rule. Little by little, Jesus will unfold the new-style kingdom of God, now arrived at its fullness. He will show it to be a Kingdom of love and holiness, thereby purifying it of the nationalistic misconceptions of the people of His time.

The King invites everyone without exception to this Kingdom (cf. Matthew 22:1-4). The Banquet of the Kingdom is held on this earth and has certain entry requirements which must be preached by the proponents of the Kingdom: “Therefore the Eucharistic celebration is the center of the assembly of the faithful over which the priest presides. Hence priests teach the faithful to offer the divine Victim to God the Father in the sacrifice of the Mass, and with the Victim to make an offering of their whole lives. In the spirit of Christ the pastor, they instruct them to submit their sins to the Church with a contrite heart in the Sacrament of Penance, so that they may be daily more and more converted to the Lord, remembering His words, `Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand’” (Vatican II, “Presbyterorum Ordinis”, 5).

Concluded on the post below…

The First Disciples Called

[18] As He (Jesus) walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. [19] And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” [20] Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. [21] And going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and He called them. [22] Immediately, they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.

**18-22. **These four disciples had already met our Lord (John 1:35-42), and their brief meeting with Him seems to have had a powerful effect on their souls. In this way Christ prepared their vocation, a fully effective vocation which moved them to leave everything behind so as to follow Him and be His disciples. Standing out above their human defects (which the Gospels never conceal), we can see the exemplary generosity and promptness of the Apostles in answering God’s call.

The thoughtful reader cannot fail to be struck by the delightful simplicity with which the evangelists describe the calling of these men in the midst of their daily work.

“God draws us from the shadows of our ignorance, our groping through history, and, no matter what our occupation in the world, He calls us in a loud voice, as He once called Peter and Andrew” ([St] J. Escriva, “Christ Is Passing By,” 45).

“This divine and human dialogue completely changed the lives of John and Andrew, and Peter and James and so many others. It prepared their hearts to listen to the authoritative teaching which Jesus gave them beside the Sea of Galilee” (“ibid”., 108).

We should notice the words of Sacred Scripture used to describe the alacrity with which the Apostles follow our Lord. Peter and Andrew “immediately” left their nets and followed Him. Similarly, James and John “immediately” left the boats and their father and followed Him. God passes by and calls us. If we do not answer Him “immediately”, He may continue on His way and we could lose sight of Him. When God passes by, He may do so rapidly; it would be sad if we were to fall behind because we wanted to follow Him while still carrying many things that are only a dead weight and a nuisance.

*[23] And He went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people. *

23. “Synagogue”: this word comes from the Greek and designates the building where the Jews assembled for religious ceremonies on the Sabbath and other feast days. Such ceremonies were non-sacrificial in character (sacrifices could be performed only in the Temple of Jerusalem). The synagogue was also the place where the Jews received their religious training. The word was also used to designate local Jewish communities within and without Palestine.

From the 1859 Haydock Commentary with the DRV text:

*12 Now when Jesus had heard that John was delivered up, he retired into Galilee:

**Ver. 12. **Jesus then left the wilderness, and passed a few day on the banks of the Jordan, affording his holy precursor an opportunity of bearing repeated testimony of him and of his divine mission, as we read in the first chap. of St. John, and then retired into Upper Galilee to avoid the fury of the Jews. There were two Galilees, that of the Jews and that of the Gentiles; this latter was given by the king of Tyre to king Solomon. (St. Jerome) This conduct of Jesus Christ, shews that on some occasions it is not only lawful, but advisable, to flee from persecution. (St. Chrysostom) — Jesus Christ enters more publicly on his mission, and about to occupy the place of his precursor, the baptist, he chooses Galilee for the first theatre of his ministry, the place assigned by the ancient prophets. The Pharisees had prevailed upon Herod to arrest the baptist, nor could their hatred be less to Jesus Christ, who drew a still greater concourse of disciples after him.

13 And leaving the city Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capharnaum, on the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim:

**Ver. 13. **Nazareth was situated in Lower Galilee; and Capharnaum, a maritime town, in Higher Galilee. According to the historian, Josephus, it did not belong to Herod, the tetrarch, who sent the baptist to confinement, but to Philip, the tetrarch, his brother. (Calmet) — He leaves Nazareth for good and all, and retires to Capharnaum, a very flourishing and much frequented emporium, both for the Jews and Gentiles. Here he makes his chief residence, a place well calculated for his preaching, being on the limits of both Galilees, although he made frequent excursions through Galilee to disseminate his doctrines. (Syn. crit.)

*14 That what was said by Isaias, the prophet, might be fulfilled:

15 The land of Zabulon and land of Nephthalim, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles:

**Ver. 15. **St. Matthew has omitted in this place part of the prophecy, (Isaias ix.) because it was not to his purpose. He has likewise given us the mystical, though still true, interpretation of the prophecy, which was written in the first instance to foretell the deliverance of Jerusalem from Senacherib, in the time of Ezechias. (1 Kings, xix.) (Jansenius)

16 The people that sat in darkness, saw great light: and to them that sat in the region of the shadow of death, light is sprung up.

Ver. 16. *And a light is risen, *&c. This light, foretold by the prophet Isaias, (chap. ix, ver. 1,) was our Saviour Christ, the light of the world, who now enlightened them by his instructions, and by his grace. (Witham) — Thus when the morning star has gone by and disappeared, the sun rises and diffuses its light to mortals, who rejoice that the darkness of night is removed from the earth. (Jansenius)

*17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say: Do penance, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

**Ver. 17. **Jesus began not to preach till St. John had announced his coming to the world, that the dignity of his sacred person might thus be manifested, and the incredulous Jews be without excuse. If after the preaching of St. John, and his express testimony of the divinity of our Redeemer, they could still say: thou givest testimony of thyself; thy testimony is not true: what would they not have said, if, without any precursor, he had, all on a sudden, appeared amongst them. He did not begin to preach till St. John was cast into prison, that the people might not be divided. On this account also St. John wrought no miracle, that the people might be struck with the miracles of our Saviour, and yield their assent to him. (St. Chrysostom, hom. 14.) — It may here be remarked, how different were the motives of the prophets from those which the baptist and Christ made use of to exhort to repentance. The former menaced evil, and held out a promise of good, but the good or evil was temporal. St. John begins his exhortations with the threat of eternal punishments—but Christ sweetens the hardships of penance by reminding us of the reward. “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Jansenius)

Concluded on the post below…

*18 And Jesus walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea (for they were fishers).

Ver. 18. Jesus wished not only to prove that the establishment of his religion was heavenly, but also to humble the pride of man; and therefore he did not choose orators and philosophers, but fishermen, says St. Jerome. Cyprian, the eloquent orator, was called to the priesthood; but before him was Peter, the fisherman. (St. Chrysostom) — Jesus saw two brothers, &c. If we compare what is related by the evangelists, as to the time that St. Peter and St. Andrew became Christ’s disciples, we shall find Andrew, who had been a disciple of St. John Baptist, to have brought to Christ his brother Simon. (John i, ver. 40.) But at that time they staid not with him, so as to become his disciples, and to remain with him as they afterwards did, by quitting their boat, their nets, their fishing, and all they had in the world, which is here related; and by St. Mark, (chap. i,) and by St. Luke, chap. v. (Witham)

19 And he saith to them: Come after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.

**Ver. 19. **Jesus Christ here makes an allusion to the prior occupation of his apostles. David, in his Psalms, makes similar allusions to his former occupation of shepherd: “He took him from the flocks of sheep, he brought him from following the ewes big with young, to feed Jacob, his servant, and Israel, his inheritance.” (Psalm lxxvii. ver. 70.) (Menochius)

*20 And they, immediately leaving their nets, followed him.

21 And going on from thence, he saw other two brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets: and he called them.*

**Ver. 21. **It was objected by the ancient enemies of Christianity, Porphyrius, Julian the apostate, and others, that Christ chose for his apostles simple and ignorant men, easy to be imposed upon, and not such as would have been on their guard against deception; thus converting that into an argument against the doctrine of Jesus Christ, which of all other circumstances most solidly and forcibly establishes its divinity and authority. (Salmeron. trac. 25.) — If Christ had persuaded the ignorant apostles only, there might be some room for such an argument. But if these 12 ignorant men triumphed over the learning, the eloquence, the sophisms of the philosophers themselves, over the strong arm of power in the hands of tyrants, and finally over the devils and passions of men, which were the last to give up the combat against a doctrine that established itself on their ruin, then we may conclude, with St. Paul, that it was wisdom in God to choose the weak things of this world to confound the strong—the foolish and the things that are not, to confound those which are. (Haydock)

*22 And they, immediately leaving their nets and father, followed him.

23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom: and healing all diseases, and infirmities among the people.*

**Ver. 23. **The synagogues were religious assemblies with the Jews, wherein they met on the sabbath and festival days, to pray, to read and hear expounded the word of God, and to exercise the other practices of their law. (Calmet)

Other thoughts and comments on this Sunday’s Gospel Reading:

Gospel - Matthew 4:12-23 **

**12 When he heard that John had been arrested: **The phrase “arrested” is more accurately translated “handed over” or “given up”. This pre-figures what will happen to Jesus at the hands of his enemies.

The complete account of the imprisonment of John the Baptist is given in Matthew 14:1-12. All the synoptic gospels and John agree that Jesus did not begin His own proclamation until John had been imprisoned by Herod Antiapas.

**he withdrew to Galilee: **The uppermost region of Palestine, north of Judea and Samaria. Jesus’ move to Galilee has been understood variously as a courageous taking up of His mission, a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy as to where the ministry of the Messiah would originate, and as a move to greater safety.

**13 He left Nazareth: **From the Jordan, Jesus went to Nazareth and remained there for a short while. The wedding feast at Cana, near Nazareth, described by John (2: 1-12), and the preaching of Christ in the synagogue of Nazareth, which resulted in his rejection as described by Luke (4: 16-30), can be fitted in here. Matthew and Mark do not mention these events, but both of them mention a visit of our Lord to Nazareth later.

**and went to live in Capernaum by the sea: **A small town on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee where the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali intersected. It was the home-town of Peter and Andrew and, probably for that reason, it became Christ’s base or second home-town during his missionary journeys around Galilee and the neighboring districts.

**in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali: **On the prophecy of Isaiah which Matthew now sees fulfilled, see today’s first reading.

This area was called “Galilee of the Gentiles” (verse 15) because of its mixed Jewish/pagan population. When ancient Israel was overrun by the Assyrians around 733 B.C., the lands of Zebulun and Napthali were the first to be devastated, its occupants deported. The prophet Isaiah foretold they would be the first to be restored when Israel’s glory returned.

**14 that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled: **Capernaum is near the northern end of the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. Matthew notes that Capernaum lays in the old tribal territory of Zebulun and Naphtali. This allows him to cite our first reading. Isaiah’s promise of liberation Matthew sees fulfilled by Jesus’ arrival.

**15 "Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles,

16 the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen."

17 From that time on: **This inaugurates Jesus’ ministry.

Completed on the next post…

Jesus began to preach and say: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”: The message of repentance was the theme of John the Baptist. It becomes the central message of Jesus and, along with the resurrection, the basis and object of Christian hope.

The Douay-Rheims and other older Catholic Scripture translations, basing themselves on the Latin, render the Greek word used here as “do penance” rather than “repent”. The Greek word is actually “repent”. Protestants, wanting to preserve their doctrine of Sola Fide, often emphasize the merely mental aspect of repentance, while Catholic exegetes and spiritual writers point out that, in practical terms, repentance involves BOTH mental and physical aspects, such as fasting and asceticism. This view is bolstered by the present passage which places the idea of penance in the context of both the lifestyle of John the Baptist and Jesus’ just-completed time of testing in the wilderness.
18 As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter:** Simon, son of Jonah, was the original name. Matthew anticipates Jesus’ later renaming Simon as Peter (Greek: Petros, Aramaic: Kepha).

and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea: Peter and Andrew were blood brothers, so were James and John. All four earned their livelihood fishing in the Sea of Galilee, a good source of living at that time.

**they were fishermen: **The Galilean fishing industry was quite prosperous and exported its products.

19 He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”: “Come after me” is technical language of a teacher to disciples but Jesus goes beyond the normal learner—teacher relationship by taking the initiative. To become a disciple they must literally “come after” Him, walking behind Him in His footsteps.

20 At once they left their nets and followed him: *At once… *or “immediately” (see also verse 22). Jesus expected, and got, a radical and prompt obedience from His followers. Later traditions look at the nets as a symbol of worldly entanglements.

**21 He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them,

22 and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him: **All four mentioned here had listened to the Baptist’s preaching, and were probably disciples of John. But on hearing John’s declarations, and having probably heard the words from heaven, they left John and followed Jesus of their own accord. The three synoptic Gospels do not mention this voluntary following of Jesus by the first disciples, but all three mention this official call to the apostolate. This official call does not deny the earlier, personal attraction toward, and belief in, Jesus as the Messiah which they had received through the Baptist.

Note that followers of Jesus can sometimes mean rupturing family ties, yet Jesus opposes neglect of parents in their old age (Matthew 15:4-6). To be a follower means changing your life.
23 He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues: **The Jews attended their synagogue in large numbers on the Sabbath day. This was a suitable occasion for Christ to meet them and explain his message in person to them.

proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom: The messianic kingdom, or new era in the relationship between God and men. It is also called the kingdom of heaven for, though it would begin on earth, its culmination and perfection would be in heaven.

Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs referencing this Sunday’s Gospel Reading:

**878 **Finally, it belongs to the sacramental nature of ecclesial ministry that it have a personal character. Although Christ’s ministers act in communion with one another, they also always act in a personal way. Each one is called personally: "You, follow me"397 in order to be a personal witness within the common mission, to bear personal responsibility before him who gives the mission, acting “in his person” and for other persons: “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit . . .”; “I absolve you . . . .”

397. Jn 21:22; Cf. Mt 4:19-21; Jn 1:4.


1720 **The New Testament uses several expressions to characterize the beatitude to which God calls man:

- the coming of the Kingdom of God;16 - the vision of God: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God"17
- entering into the joy of the Lord;18
- entering into God's rest:19
    *There we shall rest and see, we shall see and love, we shall love and praise. Behold what will be at the end without end. For what other end do we have, if not to reach the kingdom which has no end?*20 
16. Cf. Mt 4:17.
17. Mt 5:8; cf. 1 Jn 2; 1 Cor 13:12.
18. Mt 25:21-23.
19. Cf. Heb 4:7-11.
20. St. Augustine, De civ. Dei 22,30,5:PL 41,804.

**1989 **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: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."38 Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. "Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.39

38. Mt 4:17.
39. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1528.

Some questions on the Gospel Reading for personal study and reflection:

* In today’s Gospel, how does Jesus react to John’s imprisonment?
* How had the land been “sitting in darkness” (verse 16, Isaiah 8:22—9:1)? What was Jesus’ message? What is the relation between repentance, the kingdom of heaven, and the light?
* What invitations does Jesus give to the fishermen? What seems unusual about their response? What prior knowledge of Jesus do you think they had (verses 13, 17; John 1:35-42)? How might Zebedee (verse 21, 22) have felt?
* From how far away are the crowds coming (verses 23-25; refer to a Bible map)? What needs do they have? What are they learning about God’s kingdom?
* How has coming to know Jesus been like moving from darkness to light for you? In what ways does God’s kingdom seem present for you? In what ways does it seem “not yet”?
* Spiritually, are you still preparing the nets? Leaving the boat? Following hard after Jesus? Feeling left behind? What exactly does it mean to you to “repent”?

A meditation on the Gospel Reading for practical application from Catholic Matters:

**APPLICATION: **The true freedom, and the true light which Christ brought to Galilee nearly 2,000 years ago, were brought on earth for us too. The Christian faith, and the Christian knowledge of God’s love for us and his infinite interest in our real welfare, are his gift to us and to all men of goodwill, who will accept it. Thanks be to God for this marvelous gift of faith, which frees us from the slavery of paganism and sin, and lights the road to heaven for us, amidst the darkness and drudgery of this life.

The lot of the insensitive tree in the forest, and of the dumb beast of the field, would be far and away a better one than the lot of rational man, who knew neither God nor any plan that God had for him. Man with his superior gifts, which raise him above all the other earthly creatures, can experience and enjoy happiness and well-being. The joy of living, the gift of life, is the greatest source and the basis of all his other earthly joys. His short life on earth may be frequently interspersed with troubles and trials, aches and pains, yet to stay alive is so innate a desire, and so strong a determination, that the common opinion of men is that it is only a mentally deranged person who can commit suicide.

But there is a shadow, the shadow of death, over the very greatest of our earthly pleasures. Through our gift of intellect, and the experience of our race, we all know that life on this earth has to end, and no matter how many more years we may think we still have left to us, death will be too soon, far too soon, when it comes. The neo-pagan (the real pagans, who have not heard of the true God, have some god or gods in whom they hope and trust) will do all in his power to forget this dreadful thought of death, but he is reminded of it everyday of his earthly life. To live with this thought that all he shall be in eighty years’ time is a bucket of lifeless and useless dust, must be an anticipation of the hell he may also have to face after his death.

We love life, we too want to live on, we too know that this cannot be on this earth, but thanks to the merciful revelation given us in our faith, we know that the infinite love of God has prepared a future life for us. We know that Christ, by his life and death as man among us, has made us adopted sons of God. We know we have an eternal life awaiting us, when we depart from this life, and that for the Christian who did his best to be a true follower and disciple of Christ, death is not the end but the beginning of our real life. The grave is not our goal forever, but the key which opens the door to eternal life and eternal happiness for us.

With this divine knowledge revealed to us by and through Christ, everything falls into place in our earthly sojourn. We have our joys and our sorrows, our births and our burials, but we know, with the certainty of God’s word, that these are but sign-posts that mark our stages toward, and direct our steps to, our eternal home. We are superior to the tree of the forest therefore, and to the beast of the field, not only because of our earthly gifts of intelligence and will, but because we know that our end on earth will not be like theirs. It will be, instead, the great awakening to a joy and happiness of which, at present, we can only form a very limited and vague idea. We Christians have indeed seen a great, a heaven-sent light.

A reflection on the Readings from Dr. Scott Hahn:

History Redeemed

Today’s Liturgy gives us a lesson in ancient Israelite geography and history.

Isaiah’s prophecy in today’s First Reading is quoted by Matthew in today’s Gospel. Both intend to recall the apparent fall of the everlasting kingdom promised to David (see 2 Samuel 7:12-13; Psalm 89; Psalm 132:11-12).

Eight centuries before Christ, that part of the kingdom where the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali lived was attacked by the Assyrians and the tribes were hauled off into captivity (see 2 Kings 15:29; 1 Chronicles 5:26).

It marked the beginning of the kingdom’s end. It finally crumbled in the sixth century B.C., when Jerusalem was seized by Babylon and the remaining tribes were driven into exile (see 2 Kings 24:14).

Isaiah prophesied that Zebulun and Naphtali, the lands first to be degraded, would be the first to see the light of God’s salvation. Jesus today fulfills that prophecy - announcing the restoration of David’s kingdom at precisely the spot where the kingdom began to fall.

His gospel of the Kingdom includes not only the twelve tribes of Israel but all the nations - symbolized by the “Galilee of the Nations.” Calling His first disciples, two fishermen on the Sea of Galilee, He appoints them to be “fishers of men” - gathering people from the ends of the earth.

They are to preach the gospel, Paul says in today’s Epistle, to unite all peoples in the same mind and in the same purpose - in a worldwide kingdom of God.

By their preaching, Isaiah’s promise has been delivered. A world in darkness has seen the light. The yoke of slavery and sin, borne by humanity since time began, has been smashed.

And we are able now, as we sing in today’s Psalm, to dwell in the house of the Lord, to worship Him in the land of the living.

From the Daily Scripture Reading & Meditation website:

“The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light”

**Scripture: **Matthew 4:12-23

Meditation: Do you know the joy and freedom of the gospel? John the Baptist’s enemies had sought to silence him, but the gospel cannot be silenced. As soon as John had finished his testimony Jesus began his in Galilee. Galilee was at the crossroads of the world and much traffic passed through this little region. It had been assigned to the tribes of Asher, Naptali and Zebulum when the Israelites first came into the promised land (see Joshua 9). For a long time it had been under Gentile occupation. Isaiah foretold (see Isaiah 9) that the good news of salvation would be proclaimed in this land and reach to the Gentiles. Jesus begins the proclamation of the gospel here to fulfill the word of God. The Old Testament prophets spoke of God’s promise to send a Redeemer who would establish God’s rule of peace and righteousness. That time is now fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah.

Jesus takes up John’s message of repentance and calls disciples to believe in the good news he has come to deliver. What is the good news which Jesus delivers? It is the good news of peace (restoration of relationship with God), of hope (the hope of resurrection and heaven), of truth (God’s word is true and reliable), of promise (he rewards those who seek him), of immortality (God gives everlasting life), and the good news of salvation (liberty from sin and freedom to live as sons and daughters of God). The gospel is the power and wisdom of God: power to change and transform our lives and wisdom to show us how to live as sons and daughters of our Father in heaven. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit the Lord makes it possible for us to receive his word with faith and to act upon it with trust.

In announcing the good news, Jesus made two demands: repent and believe! Repentance requires a life-change and a transformation of heart and mind. The Holy Spirit gives us a repentant heart, a true sorrow and hatred for sin and its consequences, and a firm resolution to avoid it in the future. The Holy Spirit gives us grace to see our sin for what it is – rebellion and a rejection of the love of God. God’s grace helps us to turn away from all that would keep us from his love. Faith or belief is an entirely free gift which God makes to us. Believing is only possible by grace and the help of the Holy Spirit who moves the heart and converts it to God. The Holy Spirit opens the eyes of the mind and makes it easy for us to accept and believe the truth. To believe is to take Jesus at his word, to believe that God loved us so much that he sent his only begotten Son to redeem us from the slavery of sin and death. God made the supreme sacrifice of his Son on the cross to bring us back to himself. Do you know the love of God that surpasses all else and that impels us to give him our all? God wants to change our way of thinking and transform our lives by the power of his word.

Jesus chose as his closest friends and coworkers those who were ready to follow as his disciples and he gave them an unusual mission – “to catch people for the kingdom of God”. What kind of disciples did Jesus choose? Smelly fishermen! In the choice of the first apostles (Peter, Andrew, James and John) we see a characteristic feature of Jesus’ work: he chose very ordinary people. They were non-professionals, had no wealth or position of power or fame in society. They were chosen from the common people who did ordinary things, had no special marks of education, and no social advantages. Jesus wanted ordinary people who could take an assignment and do it extraordinarily well. He chose these individuals, not for what they were, but for what they would be capable of becoming under his direction and power. When the Lord calls us to be his disciples and co-workers, we must not think we have nothing to offer him in exchange. The Lord takes what ordinary people, like us, can offer and uses it for greatness in his kingdom. Do you believe that God wants to work through and in you for his glory?

Jesus speaks the same message to us today: we will “catch people” for the kingdom of God if we allow the light of Jesus Christ to shine through us. God wants others to see the light of Christ in us in the way we live, speak, and witness the joy of the gospel. Paul the Apostles says, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ Jesus always leads us in triumph, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:15). Do you show others around you the joy of the gospel and do you pray for your neighbors, co-workers, and relatives that they may come to know the Lord Jesus Christ and grow in the knowledge of his love?
“Lord Jesus, your ways are life and light! Let your word – the good news of the Gospel – penetrate my heart and transform my mind that I may see your glory and truth. Help me to follow you and do what is pleasing in your sight”. *

From The Word Among Us magazine:

“Come after me.” (Matthew 4:19)

Passion, inspiration, conviction, love—which of Jesus’ virtues made these first disciples so eager to leave their nets, their families, and their homes, to follow him? Whatever it was, it obviously had a dramatic impact on these men. After all, they stayed with him for three years, traveling the length and breadth of the Holy Land until he was crucified in Jerusalem.

We may wonder if this radical decision to follow Jesus really did take place in one moment. Did Jesus simply walk up to them and say: “Follow me”? Or were these words the culmination of a number of encounters and invitations?

We may never be able to answer these questions fully. But we can be sure about Matthew’s main point in this passage. He wants us to know that these four men—Peter, Andrew, James, and John—did decide to put away their fishing nets, leave their families, and become Jesus’ disciples. Furthermore, three of the four—Peter, James, and John—became Jesus’ closest disciples. They had the privilege of witnessing things that the other disciples did not—the Transfiguration, Jesus’ agony in the garden, and the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead. We can assume that Jesus invited these three to witness more because of the depth of their commitment to him and because of his desire that they become leaders among their brothers.

Jesus’ call, “Come after me,” is meant for all of us. We are all called to become his disciples. And if we are humble and obedient in response, we will be rewarded with deeper insights into Jesus’ mind and deeper experiences of his heart.

Pope Benedict XVI once said: “Only when a person is struck and opened up by Christ can true community grow.” Let’s ask Jesus to show us whatever he showed these men so that we might choose to live for him and build up his church in our world.

“Lord, thank you for calling me. I choose to follow you!”

Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion

  1. In the first reading, Isaiah speaks of the great promise we have been given of “abundant joy” and “great rejoicing”. This is a promise for each one of us, for the “yoke” that has “burdened” us has been “smashed.” Does your Catholic witness reflect this great joy that you have received? How can you make your life a greater reflection of it?
  1. In the Responsorial, Psalm 27 reflects these promises as well by telling us that we shall “see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living,” not just when we get to heaven. And we can do this when we “gaze on the Lord and contemplate his temple.” What does this mean to you? What role does prayer and Scripture play in this?
  1. In the second reading, St. Paul urged that Christians be united and have no divisions. How can you build greater unity in your family and parish?
  1. In the Gospel, Jesus begins his preaching with the word “repent”. Did you spend any time during the previous week reflecting on what you have done or omitted doing? How important is it for you to have a regularly scheduled examination of conscience, for example as part of your daily prayer life?
  1. In the Gospel, we are also told that when called by the Lord the disciples responded “immediately.” What are some of the obstacles that can keep you from responding immediately when the Lord reveals his will to you?
  1. In the meditation, we hear these words: “Let’s ask Jesus to show us whatever he showed these men so that we might choose to live for him and build up his church in our world.” What new steps can you take in 2011 to “live for him and build up his church in our world.”
  1. During this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, what steps can you take individually, and with others, to promote and pray for greater Christian unity with Christians from other denominations?

fidelis, thanks once again for pulling this together.

You are always welcome, Crumpy. It is my pleasure and honor to share God’s Word, especially with my fellow Catholics. If my brothers and sisters in Christ are in the least bit edified by my humble efforts, to God be all the glory. :slight_smile:

Come and Go With Me to My Father’s House: A Meditation on the Gospel for the 3rd Sunday of the Year
By: Msgr. Charles Pope

In these early weeks of “ordinary” time we are increasingly introduced to Jesus and to the beginnings of his public ministry. In Matthew’s Gospel today we hear described how Jesus began his public ministry in the wake of the arrest of John the Baptist. And Matthew tells us three things regarding this ministry of Jesus:** it’s Context, its Content, and it’s call.** Let’s look at each in turn.

1. CONTEXT of Jesus Ministry - The text says, When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled: 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.

The relocation of Jesus northward from Judea up to Galilee tells us some important truths. First, it tells us of the hostility of the southern regions to the message of John the Baptist and Jesus. The area in and around Judea which included, principally, Jerusalem was controlled by a sort of religious ruling class (the Sadducees especially, and to a lesser extent the Pharisees). Since they were in strong but often controverted leadership in these areas, they were far less open to ideas which in any way threatened their leadership or questioned the rituals related to the Temple. As we know, Jesus did not come to abolish the Law but he did come to fulfill it and this was threatening to those tied to the current status quo, most of whom did not distinguish fulfillment from abolition, and saw only threat. Further, the Herodian dynasty was also threatening especially in the south and had arrested John the Baptist.

Jesus thus, moves north to more fertile territory to begin his public ministry. The Jewish people in Galilee were less hostile. In fact the people of Jerusalem often looked down upon them for their more simple, agrarian ways and “rural accent.” But here was more fertile ground for Jesus to begin.

Now there is an important lesson for us in this. While we must carefully preserve Christian orthodoxy and only accept a development of doctrine that is organic and faithful to the received Apostolic Tradition, it is also true that we can sometimes stifle the Holy Spirit who will speak to us through unexpected people and in unexpected ways. The Pharisee leaders simply rejected the notion that any prophet could come from Galilee. Whne Nicodemus encouraged them to give Jesus a hearing they scoffed: Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee (Jn 7:52). It is possible for us to insist upon things where freedom is permitted the Christian. There are various degrees of expression permitted in the liturgy and there are often different schools of theological thought which the Church sanctions. Balance is required of us. There may be preferences that we have for Thomistic formulations, Carmelite spirituality, charismatic worship or traditional Latin Mass worship. Such things are legitimate matters for on-going discussion, but we can too easily be threatened by what the Church currently deems to be legitimate diversity. Discovering a the range and limits of diversity is an on-going matter for the Church but we ought not permit the field of our own soul to be hostile to Jesus and his ministry, which may come to us more diverse ways that we, of our self, prefer.

How tragic it was for Judea that Jesus thought he had to move on to more fertile territory, and what a blessing it was for Galilee that he moved there. The fact is that unfounded stubbornness can be hinder the Word of God in us. Jesus moved on to a more accepting context wherein his ministry could bear the greatest fruit. St. Gregory the Great has this to say about the context for preaching and necessary fertility of the field:

[quote]For frequently the preacher’s tongue is bound fast on account of his own wickedness. as the psalmist says: *But God asks the sinner: Why do you recite my commandments? *

(PS 50:16) On the other hand it sometimes happens that because of the people’s sins the word of preaching is withdrawn from those who preside over the assembly as the Lord tells Ezekiel:* I will make your tongue cleave to the roof of your mouth, so that you shall be dumb and unable to reprove them, for they are a rebellious house. *(Ez 3:26) He clearly means this: the word of preaching will be taken away for they are unworthy to hear the exhortation of truth. It is not easy to know for whose sinfulness the preacher’s word is withheld, but it is indisputable that the shepherd’s silence while often injurious to himself will always harm his flock. – (St. Gregory the Great Hom. 17,3, 14)

For Galilee there was this boon: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined (Is 9:2) But for others, Jesus had only this to say, *Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. *(Matt 21:43)

Continued on the next post…

]2. The CONTENT of his MINISTRY – The text says, From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

We have discussed before the careful balance of Jesus’ preaching. He is willing to challenge and so say, Repent! But he also declares the good news that the kingdom of heaven is at hand! Accepting the ministry of Jesus requires that we avoid both presumption and despair.

To those who make light of sin and their condition as a sinner, Jesus says repent. It is wrong to presume that we do not need an on-going healing power from the Lord to overcome our sin. And perhaps our greatest sin is our blindness to our sin. Most human beings do not seem to comprehend how serious their condition is. The word translated here as “Repent!” is *μετανοεῖτε *(metanoeite) which means more literally to come to a new mind, or a new way of thinking. In our sin soaked world where sin is so pervasive as to almost be unnoticed, Jesus says, “Come to a new mind. Understand your condition and need for mercy and grace. Come to understand that without the rescue that only God can give, you are lost.” And hence we are told to reject presumption.

But we are also told to reject despair, for the Kingdom of God is at hand. In other words, the grace and mercy of God are now available to rescue us from this present evil age and from our carnal condition. Through Christ we are granted admittance to the Kingdom and the Spirit of God can overcome our carnal, sin nature and bring us true holiness.

The proper mean between presumption and despair is the theological virtue of Hope. By hope we confidently expect God’s help in attaining eternal life. By proper *metanoia *(repentance) we know that we need that help, and by hope confidently reach for it.

In our own proclamation of the kingdom we also need the proper balance exhibited by Jesus. Consider how, with children, that if all they hear is criticism they become discouraged (despair). But if all they hear is praise and are never corrected: they become spoiled and prideful and presume everything should be just as they want it. For the Church too, a balance is necessary. Too many expect the Church only to affirm and “be positive.” But this leads to a more selfish and incorrigible world and to a presumption that nothing matters (as we can plainly see). Thus the Church must announce the call to repentance. But the Church must also offer hope and mercy to sinners. She must offer grace though the Sacraments and by her preaching which, with God’s power, makes the Kingdom of God to be “at hand.”

Concluded on the next post…

**3. The CALL of his Ministry **The text says, As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him.

Jesus, in building his kingdom, summons men to follow him. He will train them to be the leaders of his Church as Apostles. The Kingdom of God is not only about calling disciples but also about developing leaders to provide order and authority in the Church. Even the most “democratic” of organizations requires authority and leadership. Without these there is anarchy and a battle of wills. Hence the Lord calls not only disciples, in the early stages of his public ministry, he also grooms leaders. Consider three things about the Lord’s call here.

A. His ARTICULATENESS: He says to these apostles, *Come Follow me! *Notice that his announcement is unambiguous. Good leaders like the Lord are clear to make known what they ask, indeed, what is demanded. He is clear to set the course and point the way. And HE is that way.
B. His APPEAL – **Jesus must have had a personal appeal and exuded an authority that was strong and reassuring. His appeal to them was personal: come follow ME. He did not merely say come and “learn my doctrine,” or “accept my vision.” He said, follow ME. So too, as we hand on the faith to our children and to others, we cannot simply say, here is a Catechism follow it. We must also take the next step and say follow the Lord with me. We cannot simply say what a book says, correct though that book is. Ultimately we must be able to say, I am a personal witness to the fact that God is real and that the truth he has given to the Church is authentic and is changing my life. Our appeal must include the personal testimony that what we proclaim is real and is changing our life: Come and go with me to my Father’s house.

C. His APPROACH – Note that the Lord builds on what they know: fishing. He starts with the familiar to draw them to the less familiar. In a way he is saying that the gifts they are currently using are just the gifts they can use as leaders in God’s Kingdom. Fishermen are:

*** Patient – **Fishermen often wait long hours for the fish to bite. So too as Apostles and Bishops there must be a patience, a capacity to wait long periods before there is a catch for the Lord.
*** Perceptive –** Fishermen learn to know the fish and their behavior and what attracts them. So too Apostles and clergy must learn of their people and what will attract them to Christ.
*** Persevering – **Fishermen must often go out for many days with little catch. Only through perseverance is there real gain in fishing. So too with the Work of the clergy who may go long stretches with little to show. The gospel may go “out of season” even for decades in certain cultures (like our own). The good leader will persevere, will stay at the task.

**3. The COMPREHENSIVENESS of his Ministry – **The text says, He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.
Therefore note that all of Galilee was his mission field and he covered it comprehensively. He also cured of every disease and illness. And thus the Church is catholic and must also address every part of the world and provide a comprehensive vision for life. We may not have the power to simplistically cure every ailment and problem, but we can provide the vision of the Paschal mystery that sheds light and brings spiritual healing to every affliction. If we are suffering and dying, so to did Jesus but only to rise and be glorified on account of his fidelity and obedience. So too for the Church and for the Christian, the grace and the comprehensive answer to every affliction is that
we are always carrying about in our bodies the dying of Christ so that the rising of Christ may also be manifest in us *(2 Cor 4:10). We seek to bring healing to everyone we can, and where physical remedies are not possible, the truth of the Gospel reassures that every Friday, faithfully endured, brings forth, by God’s grace an Easter Sunday.

Here then are three crucial insights to the beginning of Jesus public ministry. They remain for the Church and for all of us who would follow in Jesus’ footsteps important insights for us to acknowledge and imitate.

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