26th January. Third Sunday of Ordinary Time
Light in the dark
1st Reading: Isaiah 9:1-3
(Isaiah foretells the coming of a Saviour to Galilee of the nations, to the people who walked in darkness.)
In the former time God brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness-on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder.
2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17
(Even in the early Church there was disunity and the dangers of rivalry and schism.)
I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brethren. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apol’los,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
Gospel: Matthew 4:12-23
(Jesus calls for repentance and invites his first followers to leave everything behind to follow him.)
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.
“Give up your old sins!”
Today’s gospel reports the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. John had been arrested, so that was the end of his active input to the religious revival of his people. The gospel tells us that instead of going to Nazareth (in other words, instead of going home), Jesus went to Capernaum. The show was on the road, as it were. Aren’t the words used by the prophet powerful to describe what happens when Jesus began his ministry,”The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who lived in the land where death cast its shadow, a light has shone.” Jesus would later refer to himself as the light of the world; and, in commissioning his apostles, he would tell them that they, too, were to be light to the world.
The message of Jesus is a simple one. “Turn from your sins, and turn to God, because the kingdom of heaven is near.” When I was growing up the word “vocation” was highjacked by priests and religious. It has been given back to the laity, and more and more baptised people are actually experiencing themselves as being called. There is nothing dramatic about this. It just means that I don’t just stumble into the Christian way by default, but that God has chosen me: “I have called you by name; you are mine.” “You didn’t choose me; no, I chose you, and I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that would remain.” If the gospel is now, and I am every person in the gospel, then, through the gospel of today, I am being called again.
“Turn from your sins, and turn to God, because the kingdom of God is near.” There is a story told about Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting of the Last Supper. Leonardo searched far and wide for what he considered to be an ideal model for each person in the scene. He began with a fine-looking young man, full of vitality, and chose him as a perfect model for Jesus. He followed with other models for each of the apostles, and the work took quite a while. He left Judas till last, not knowing who could represent him. Finally, he came across a tramp sleeping rough, whom he thought that would probably sell his soul for money. Leonardo persuaded him to come to his studio. While the work was in progress, both of them came to the same realisation. This man had been in the same studio before, representing Jesus; but he had gone astray, lost his way, and was now on Skid Row. It was a shock to de Vinci, and a sharp prod to conversion for the man.