Homily for the third Sunday in the year

Year A  -  Mt. 4:12-23


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee;  and leaving Nazareth he went and dwelt in Caper'na-um by the sea, in the territory of Zeb'ulun and Naph'tali, that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:  «The land of Zeb'ulun and the land of Naph'tali, 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)  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 Zeb'edee and John his brother, in the boat with Zeb'edee 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:


"Now 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 . . .»"

Jesus changes his orientation:  he leaves Nazareth, where his own people didn't receive him, and where, later on, they wanted to throw him down from the hill on which the city was built (cf. Luke 4:29)!  Jesus changes his orientation and goes to Galilee, the region of strangers, the region of the nations!  Saint Matthew understood this change:  Jesus wanted to go to the nations, whereas his mission had begun among his own people, the Jews!  Saint Matthew understood this, which is why he quotes this text from the Prophet Isaiah:  "Galilee of the Gentiles the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light !"

Jesus, it is true, was sent by the Father in order to reveal to the Jewish People, to the People whom God had chosen for Himself, all that His merciful love does, and has done from the beginning of time, for those whom God elected in his Son.  Jesus clearly expressed this when he declared:  "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Mt. 15:24)  But a moment after having said these words, did Jesus not say to the pagan woman who pleaded for him to heal her daughter:  "O woman, great is your faith!  Be it done for you as you desire." (Mt. 15:28)?  Could we not say that, from that precise moment, the righteous will of God was inflected by the wishes of the pagan nations, who implored for the mercy of the Savior of all the men and women of the earth?

Moreover, let us remember what Jesus said about the centurion who implored for the recovery of his servant, but who averred that Jesus didn't have to go to where the servant was - he could very well heal him from afar:  "Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.  I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth." (Mt. 8:10-12)

"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.»"

Jesus changes his orientation!  Jesus goes to the nations!  It is in this context that the calling of Simon, as well as that of Andrew his brother, takes place.  Was it not Peter who, in accordance with a vision from Heaven, was the first to allow the centurion Cornelius to enter the first Christian community?  Therefore, after Peter justified himself to his brothers, all exclaimed:  "Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance unto life!" (Acts 11:18)  Yes!  Peter became a fisher of men!  And what a fisher!  The whole world was knocking on his door, and he, the fisherman from Galilee, was destined to let in the men and women of all the nations!  Yes, Peter truly followed Jesus and he became a fisher of men!

Jesus changes his orientation and, following him, Peter becomes a fisher of men!  Peter was Jewish, but, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he gave the Church its new orientation:  to go to the pagan nations!  From then on, it is these same nations who make up the Church of God, from the first among believers - the Pope - to the very last member of the mystical Body of Christ!  With this new orientation, the new Israel was born!  Certainly, the Church counts among her members a certain number of converted Jews, but they don't constitute the majority of believers.  We all respect these members, who belong to the same people as Jesus himself, but we must nonetheless follow this new orientation given to us by the Master:  to go toward the nations!

May Mary, the Mother of us all, help us to resolutely follow Christ, her Son!  May we, through Her, receive as our inheritance the eternal life that is in Jesus!