3rd Week Ordinary Time, January 2017
Matthew 4:12-2 ~ When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee… Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”… He called them and they immediately left their boat…and followed him… Jesus went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.
Two brothers were discussing their future goals after Sunday school one day. The first said he wanted to be rich and famous. The second said he wanted to follow Jesus to the fullest. The second went on to reach his goal. His name was David Livingstone, the renowned medical missionary and explorer of Africa. The first went on to be rich, but his fame came from another. His tombstone reads, “Here lies the brother of Doctor David Livingstone.”
Jesus was on a mission to teach us about a God of mercy, love and compassion who happens to be his Father. Jesus, walking along, met Peter and Andrew, James and John after they had just finished their hard days work as professional fishermen. What happened to their nets and boats? What was so compelling about Jesus that they’d leave without concern for the details that had preoccupied their lives and gave them a sense of security?
Clearly there was something magnetic, even contagious about Jesus that caused people to forget the important and unimportant-the boats and the nets—and all the things that distract us everyday to follow him. There was something about Jesus that compelled people to connect with our God who they had heard of, often spoken of and who drew them toward goodness.
We might say it’s no problem connecting with Jesus, he was a healer of both external and internal wounds, he was exemplary, he put his life on the line for his friends. Our problem is more about connecting with God’s people. Maybe that’s because God’s people don’t represent Jesus very well in the world today. God’s people don’t practice what Jesus preached. We need to connect, though, because God’s fullness is not revealed in any one of us; but when we connect with one another we manifest God’s goodness.
“Repent, (metanoia, change course), the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” What John and now Jesus is saying is that repenting or changing course is essential to entering heaven. To follow Jesus is a drastic change of life goals or plans. Before the brothers could teach, preach and heal people, they had to first change course. They had to learn to fish in a different way. It was like learning to drive in one of those countries that drive on the other side of the street. It was like learning to write with the other hand. It was like learning to speak a new language or breaking an addiction or a toxic relationship. It could also be like trying to learn to speak after suffering a stroke. In reality it is all of these. It sounds impossible, but nothing is impossible with God.
Even Simon had to let go of his name and pick up a new name Peter. Once we repent, the hard work begins. So often, people go back to their old ways because the internal emotions are too uncomfortable.
Before we can go out and proclaim the good news or heal the sick, Jesus must first call us. Then we must listen to his teaching. Then and only then does Jesus send us out two by two. An isolated Christian is a dead Christian.
This Gospel passage is from the 4th chapter of St. Matthew’s account. The Gospel passages we hear in the following five weeks are critical if we wish to reach our goals in life. Chapters 5, 6, and 7 speak of the goodness and expectations of God. This is what he was teaching in the synagogues. This is what Jesus was proclaiming as Good News. This is where his authority to cure every disease and illness comes from.
I am going to go out on a limb and assign some homework this week. It only takes about 5 or 10 minutes to read, but it will probably take you a lifetime to learn. I am still learning! What would it be like to hear Jesus as he went to all the synagogues? Read and pray these chapters out loud a couple times this week if not daily. You will most likely recognize many of the teachings which all boil down to “love God and love neighbor” with no exceptions. However, to apply these teachings will be a true metanoia experience, but don’t be afraid, you are in good company. Mark Twain once said: “Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture which they cannot understand; but as for me, I have always noticed that the passages in Scripture which trouble me the most are those which I do understand.”
It may be important to invoke the Holy Spirit. “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful. Enkindle in us the fire of your love… O God who by the light of the Holy Spirit instructs the hearts of your faithful, grant that by that same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever rejoice in your consolation forever.”
Jesus is longing to go to the ends of the world, teaching the mercy of God, preaching the kingdom of heaven, and curing every disease and illness. All he needs is your body, soul and fire… and your change of direction.
Lord, when you came to the seashore
You weren’t looking for the rich nor the wise,
But only asking that I might follow
O Lord, with your eyes set upon me
Gently smiling, you have spoken my name
Close to you, I will find other shores
Lord, you knew what my boat carried
neither money nor weapons for fighting,
but nets for fishing my daily labor
(PESCADOR DES HOMBRES by Cesareo Gabarain)
We could connect with others and follow Jesus toward God, toward pleasing God, by seeing the Sacred in others. The Holy Spirit unites us with the Divine and offers the only route to Good News in this world.
Jeff McGowan and I worked together on this homily.
Have a blessed and holy week. Pray and journal about Matthew 5, 6, and 7 and see how Jesus calls your from your boat. You might even walk a few steps on water!