Sunday, January 26
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 4: 12 – 23
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.
The Gospel in its opening line states that John (the Baptist) has been handed over. He is in prison and will be killed. The Gospel writer is making it clear that John is no longer leading a movement. The fact that Jesus “heard” of John’s imprisonment implies that Jesus was not actually following John, otherwise he would have known of the handing over first hand. Jesus has been on his own in Nazareth, but now he departs for Capernaum in Galilee. This action taken by Jesus would have fulfilled Old Testament prophecy. Yet, as with John, Jesus announces the coming of the kingdom of heaven through repentance.
All of this introduction sets up the recruiting of Jesus’ first followers. We know them later as apostles, but for now, they are not clued in to what their futures may hold. Jesus calls us all and he takes us where we are. Like the apostles, we may not be ready to hear all that Jesus has in mind for us. He does, however, draw us to himself. While the metaphor of “fishers of men (and women)” may give us a positive nostalgic image of this Gospel, we can easily come to a misunderstanding as it could be misinterpreted as being manipulative or trapping. After all, the purpose of a fishing net was for commercial gain. Jesus does not seek gain, but gives — and as we will see, he gives us all he has through his suffering, death, and resurrection. In this instance, Jesus’ call requires a response from us. There is no manipulation involved in his call and there is always a way for us to escape, if we wish. If after seeing what is asked of us in this call, we can always walk away. The “mending their nets” comment suggests that some fish had escaped through their own will and industry.
These first responders bravely responded to the call and experienced the beauty and completeness of Jesus’ message of salvation that the kingdom of heaven is here and now. It is significant that Jesus’ call takes place right in their work place. The call comes directly from Jesus. “I chose you, you did not choose me.”
At the same time, there is no evidence that they lived a life destitute or wanting. Leaving the tools of the only way of life they had known and choosing a simpler lifestyle for the new work we are called to do is the path to inner joy. Hopefully, we can remain open to that call when it comes.
-Deacon Don Poirier