Homily for the third Sunday of the year - Year A - Mt. 4:12-23


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth he went and dwelt in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 'The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, toward 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 preach, saying, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'


"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 fishers of men.' Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. And he went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people."





Homily:


"When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth he went and dwelt in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali."


In today's Gospel, Saint Matthew relates to us the first episodes of the apostolic life of the Lord. Saint Matthew wants to highlight, above all, the change that was brought about in the world by the commencement of Jesus' preaching. John the Baptist having just been arrested, the Old Law was being eclipsed by the New Law. Jesus, making his way to Galilee, is the Salvation of God being offered more widely, to all the men of the world. Saint Matthew summarizes all this by quoting the Prophet Isaiah, who said: "The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, toward 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." (Is. 9:1)


Galilee: the land and the region where God reveals himself, where God manifests himself! When Jesus rose from the dead, the following was told to his disciples: "Go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him." (Mt. 28:7) Galilee, the land of the Resurrection and the Life! Has Jesus not just met the Samaritan woman, the woman to whom he revealed the gushing spring of eternal Life? For, in going from Judaea to Galilee, Jesus has just crossed Samaria, making that beneficial stop at the well of Jacob (cf. Jn. 4:6). And, once in Galilee, Jesus begins his preaching in his home town: Nazareth! It is Saint Luke who recounts this event to us, concluding his account by saying: "All spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth." (Lk. 4:22)


"From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.' "


Jesus travels across Galilee, and he preaches. What does he say? "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." If, today, someone would travel through the streets of our city or town, saying to everyone he meets: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand", how would we react? Perhaps well, or perhaps badly... It would all depend on the spirit that animates us. He who is attentive to the Spirit of God would undoubtedly react well. But the man who lets himself be led by the spirit of evil would certainly react badly to the behavior of this strange preacher. Not to mention all those who would think this individual was a dangerous lunatic who should be locked up as soon as possible! For Jesus goes against the ideas of the world; and this world, which Jesus came to disturb and to trouble, for two thousand years has but one response to his way of doing things: it calls it folly! Saint Paul said: "We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles." (1 Cor. 1:23)


"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 fishers of men.' Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him."


Is it not the "folly of the cross" (cf. 1 Cor. 1:18) that led Peter, Andrew, James, and John to leave everything and follow the Lord? They truly had to be mad with Love in order to follow Christ! Without any doubt, the Spirit of God had to interiorly manifest his Omnipotence in order that Peter and the others might freely, without any constraint, but with a firm will, follow Christ as his disciples!


Peter, Andrew, and their companions were probably not rich: they did not have much to leave behind. But this does not matter: the important thing is that, out of Love for Jesus, they left everything behind. Moreover, shortly after having attached themselves to their Lord and Master, Peter and the others had to return once again to fishing, for they needed to earn their bread and eat in order to stay alive. For what Jesus asks of us is purity of heart above all else! And when one gives up for the Lord a good that one holds dear, the Lord will soon return it to us, or else he will give us something even better!


"And he went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people."


Let us be ready to follow Jesus anywhere he goes, or rather, anywhere he tells us to go, through his Spirit! For the Spirit of Christ is always at work in the Church and in the world: he gives us signs in order to tell us to do this or that, he places men and women in our path in order to help us to understand what he wants of us. The Spirit who rests upon Christ lives in our hearts: he is the one who helps us to love Christ "foolishly"! May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, who is the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, be our aid and our companion every day of our life!



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