Friday 7th January
As one community contracts, another expands
In spite of its fervent adherence to the person of Jesus and its high ideals of community purity and fraternal love, it is clear from the letters that the Johannine community suffered from grave internal tensions, which eventually led to its break-up, amid reproaches and recrimination. The beginnings of this bitter split are visible in today’s warning not to believe every spirit, and in the flat statement,”whoever is not from God does not listen to us.” It is sobering to see how this community so centred on faith and on love could then splinter so disastrously, possibly because of personality clashes, plus an excessive dogmatism that was incapable of tolerating diversity.
By contrast, today’s Gospel is totally positive, focussed on spreading the message, bringing light to where there was darkness, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and doing so in collaboration with others. Jesus leaves Nazareth and makes his new, missionary, home in Capernaum by the shore of Lake Tiberias. It is typical of Matthew’s style to see this formal start of the ministry as the fulfilment of the prophetic Scriptures, in this case Isaiah’s vision that “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.” Already he is foreshawing the universal outreach of the Good News, which becomes explicit at the end of his Gospel as, “Go out into the whole world and proclaim the Good News!” Mt 28:16-20
First Reading: 1 John 3:22-4:6
Beloved, we receive from God whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming; and now it is already in the world. Little children, you are from God, and have conquered them; for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and whoever is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
Gospel: Mt 4:12-17; 23-25
Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – 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.” From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
As he 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. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.