In our Gospel reading today we hear how Jesus began his
ministry in Galilee at Capernaum. St Matthew is keen to
point out how Jesus only begins his ministry once he hears
that John the Baptist has been arrested; this is to make it
clear that there is no sort of competition between John the
Baptist and Jesus. John is his forerunner and Jesus only begins his ministry once John is off the scene, so to speak.
St Matthew also gives us a quote from the Old Testament so that we are reminded that Jesus’ coming was predicted by the prophets and in particular by Isaiah. The prophecy he quotes is about where Jesus was to begin his ministry, namely on the banks of the Sea of Galilee.
This area was the first part of Israel to be invaded by the Assyrians many years before and there was a tradition that because of this it would be from this area that the Messiah would appear. It was the darkest moment in the history of the people of Israel and so they reckoned that it would be from here that the brightest light would come.
Matthew being a good Jew is careful to point these things out to his readers. He is very interested in continuity with the past and wants his readers, who could well have been mostly Jews in the first instance, to receive Jesus favourably. Mathew therefore portrays Jesus as being obedient to a Divine plan already laid down in scripture.
Another thing worth noting in this regard is that Matthew wants us to know that Jesus begins his ministry very much in continuity with the message of John the Baptist. He starts out on this new ministry with the words of John on his lips, ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand.’
This message of repentance that Jesus preached places him directly in the line of the Prophets who time and time again called the people of Israel to turn from their evil ways and return to the God of the Covenant.
When Jesus says that the Kingdom of heaven is close at hand he is very directly inaugurating the Kingdom of God itself. For Jesus the Kingdom is not something that is far off in the future; no, for him it is something which has already started. His message is that the Kingdom has already begun and ought to be embraced by everyone in the world.
Even in our own day we can see signs of the Kingdom all around us. We meet holy people, we obtain miracles in answer to our prayers and through the liturgy we are connected with the Angels and Saints in heaven.
Naturally enough Jesus actually begins his ministry with the call of the Apostles beginning with two sets of brothers, Simon Peter and Andrew and then James and John.
That they are fishermen gives Jesus the opportunity to use the play on words about them becoming fishers of men. We should be aware that these are not poor men; they have a reliable occupation and a good living. Clearly they had a lot to lose by leaving their profession and following Jesus. This highlights the radical nature of their choice to become Apostles.
In the case of James and John they leave their father Zebedee and once again this demonstrates the fact that they are relinquishing the extremely strong bonds of kinship and loyalty to one’s father.
We are inspired too by their unhesitating acceptance of Jesus call. There is no dilly-dallying here. T
heir response is immediate, direct and unhesitating. The nearest parallel in the Old Testament is the call of the Prophets. Indeed it might be useful to think of the Apostles as the Prophets of the New Testament.
Another thing worth pointing out is that the new Apostles have no preparation or previous experience to rely on. Neither do we get the impression that this is because Jesus sees in them some special quality or characteristic that might be useful in their new role. Actually, as we see later on, they frequently fall short as Apostles with Peter denying Christ and most of them deserting him after his arrest at Gethsemane.
We also note that the Apostles were individually called by Jesus; discipleship does not come about of one’s own volition, it is something to which you are called. Ask any priest or religious and they will tell you that they felt that they were directly responding to the call of God. This is why we speak of a vocation; that’s where the word comes from: the Latin is vocare, to call.
Normally if someone wanted to follow a Rabbi they took the initiative themselves but here it is Jesus who approaches the Apostles. This puts their kind of discipleship in a completely different league.
The text concludes with a very brief description of what Jesus’ ministry actually consisted in: three things; namely teaching, proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom and healing. These activities were to occupy the next three years and all the while he was accompanied by the Apostles. They learned from his teaching and preaching and they witnessed his miracles.
On occasion Jesus sent them out to prepare his way before him and invited them to perform the same sorts of miracles. These three years were a kind of apprenticeship for the Apostles, all the time they were learning from their master even if occasionally they did not fully understand what was going on.
It was, of course, all a preparation for the time when they would assume the leadership of the Church. After receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost they were sent out to proclaim the Gospel to all the nations. We have to say that they and their successors have been remarkably effective in their task and that today believers form a majority of the world’s population.
In conclusion we could say that this was the first miracle recorded in St Matthew’s Gospel. We can say so because these men did not expect Jesus to wlk by that particular day and yet they responded in a wholehearted way, leaving everything to follow their new master. It was something entirely spontaneous and only explainable as being the grace of God acting in their hearts.
But this was not a one-off event; it is something that continues in the world right up to the present day. Christ continues to call Apostles to his mission of making the Kingdom of God a present reality. He may well be calling you to embrace the Gospel in a radical way and to leave your old life behind and to begin a completely new life, a life dedicated entirely to him.
Maybe you can find it in yourself to do what those first four Apostles did and immediately get up and go after him. If you do, then we will all be very glad indeed and will support you in every way we can.
Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
January 26, 2014
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 4: 12-23
When Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been arrested, he left Nazareth and went to Capernaum. Herod Antipas was ruler of this territory, Galilee of the Gentiles, regarded as a region of God-forsaken pagan ways. It is here that Jesus goes to take up what is now the dangerous mission of John, to proclaim the coming of God’s kingdom.
Third Sunday of Ordinary Time: St. Agnes and the Victory of Christ’s Peace
I want to begin by telling you about a little girl, most likely 12, possibly 13 years old, who took on a mighty empire and won. The little girl was named Agnes. At least that is the name she is remembered by. Agnes means lamb. She was like a little lamb. Agnes was a child of a noble family in ancient Rome, and lived around the year 300 AD. She was a Christian in the last decades of Rome’s persecution of the Christians.
Meaning of the Church: Are You Called?
Flick on the television, turn to the news, and notice how hopeless it all looks. Terrorists kill hundreds and intimidate millions. Government debt in the US and Europe balloons out of control and whole countries need to be bailed out.
Things did not appear much better in first century Galilee. The king was an irreligious adulterer and a lackey of the hated Romans. Traitorous tax collectors took a big cut of the little money people managed to earn. The Sea of Galilee was really only a moderate sized lake and competition to catch its few fish was stiff. Only two things were (and still are) inevitable: death and taxes.
Pope to Youth: ‘Christians Were Not Chosen by the Lord for Small Things’
VATICAN CITY — In his message for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Pope Francis urged youth to listen to the call of God, stating that this is often faced with obstacles and requires “going against the tide.”
“We Christians were not chosen by the Lord for small things; push onwards toward the highest principles. Stake your lives on noble ideals!” the Holy Father remarked in his Jan. 17 message to youth.
Understanding the Spiritual Works of Mercy
It used to be required that all young Catholics memorize the Works of Mercy as an ever-present mandate for how we are to live. But nowadays, memorization is forgotten and most people only know a couple of the Corporal Works. Do you remember—feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, bury the dead? Yet, our world is in desperate need of the Spiritual Works of Mercy, so perhaps we should bring back that memorization practice to our Sunday School programs. Do you agree
The Catholic Church: Home for Sinners
Perched majestically atop courthouse buildings in almost every land, there stands the Roman goddess Justitia, armed with sword in one hand, scales in the other, exercising her fine art of giving all and sundry exactly what they deserve. Often depicted wearing a blindfold to emphasize the pure impartiality of her judgments, one cannot help but admire the sheer unbending objectivity by which she executes justice. Such a satisfying prospect it must be to punish the wicked, to acquit the innocent.
Finding the One, True Church: Connect the Dots Approach
In reality, the Bible illustrates that there is indeed one truth, and that there is one church which was established to help us learn and live that truth… After looking at these verses and connecting the dots, finding that one, true church is relatively easy!” – Gary Zimak
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? I can’t imagine any Christian looking at the above verse and disagreeing with its content. Essentially, it is a summary of our mission as followers of Christ. But exactly how does the Lord teach us “His way” so that we can “walk in His truth”? Even though we acknowledge Jesus as “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”, we still need a set of guidelines for making moral decisions.
Pope: God chooses the small, the gentle, the least powerful…
During his daily morning Mass at the Vatican, the Pope talked about why Christians must always have humility. The Pope emphasized that unlike people, God doesn’t focus on appearances, but rather on hearts.
“Our Christian loyalty is all about safeguarding our smallness so that we can have a dialogue with God. That’s why humbleness, gentleness and daily habits are so important in the life of a Christian, because it safeguards our smallness and pleases God.”
Collapse of Conscience
It seems there is no place for conscience nowadays.
Its only place in the modern world is in the minds and hearts of the so-called “unenlightened” — the backward, the judgmental. No one with half a mind would be caught dead with one.
For most modernists, conscience is a thing of the past, an artifact of an early more naive, more primitive, more compliant era. Conscience is an anachronism, like the virtue of chastity and the code of chivalry, like common courtesy and common sense.