7 January, 2013. Monday after Epiphany
1 Jn 3:22–4:6. Distinguishing the spirit of truth from the spirit of error.
Mt 4:12-17, 23-25. Jesus went about the country villages, teaching and healing.
First Reading: 1 John 3:22–4:6.
Beloved, we receive from him 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: Matthew 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.” And he 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.
The thrust of Jesus’ ministry
It is often said that the evangelist Matthew presents Jesus as the new Moses, somehow mirroring the work of Israel’s great lawgiver and shaping the New Covenant with a deeper, even more demanding code of conduct, in the Sermon on the Mount. While the parallel of Jesus with Moses really does feature in Matthew’s composition, it cannot explain today’s Gospel text which has a joyful message of salvation going way beyond the confines of Abraham’s descendants and a religion based on the Law. Matthew attaches great significance to Jesus’ changing his base of operations to Capernaum, on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. It’s at the heart of what he calls “Galilee of the Gentiles” and foretells how, through Jesus, all nations will see great light – that is, they will be called into God’s own family and be saved.
The second half of today’s Gospel shows Jesus teaching in their synagogues (presumably his understanding of Israel’s duty to bring God’s light to other nations,) proclaiming the good news of the kingdom (his burning sense that our merciful God is reaching out to draw all of humanity into one, loving family of equals), and curing every disease and sickness among the people. It was his concern with healing people, enhancing the lives of the unfortunate and marginalised, that drew such crowds to him. The dynamic that drove his ministry and urged him to visit so many villages, making himself available to all kinds of individuals, was love. Yes, clearly he calls on people to “repent” – to reconsider their ambitions, priorities and lifestyle – but it is in order that they may have the fullness of life. And therefore Matthew can sum up the impact of all Jesus’ activities in the lovely phrase: “the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light!”