January 26, 2014
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 4: 12-23
When Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been arrested, he left Nazareth and
went to Capernaum. Herod Antipas was ruler of this territory, Galilee of the
Gentiles, regarded as a region of God-forsaken pagan ways. It is here that Jesus
goes to take up what is now the dangerous mission of John, to proclaim the
coming of God's kingdom.
Jesus then proceeds to call Peter, Andrew, James and his brother John to follow
him as disciples. Through Jesus, what has been spoken through the prophet Isaiah
is at last fulfilled: ". . . the people who sit in darkness have seen a great
light, and on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has risen."
Matthew graphically portrays the unredeemed human condition: John, victim of the
injustice of arrest and subsequent execution; people sitting in darkness and the
shadow of death. Hearers of Matthew's gospel already know that Jesus and many
who became his disciples soon would meet the same kind of injustice and violent
death as John.
Graham Greene, in his novel The Power and the Glory, portrays the hopelessly
fallen human condition in a similarly graphic way through the thoughts of the
main character: "The knowledge of the world lay in her like the dark explicable
spot in an x-ray photograph; he longed -- with a breathless feeling in the beast
-- to save her, but he knew the surgeon's decision -- the ill was incurable."
The good news of Christian faith is that no experience of our human condition,
however "incurable" it may seem, even death, is hopeless. The mission of Jesus
is to proclaim that God loves us and wants to give himself to us if we but turn
to accept him. Jesus, "God with us," is the incarnation of this supreme love --
light for people who sit in darkness, life in a land overshadowed by death.
The gospel today also reminds us that Jesus calls each of us by name to follow
him: our ultimate happiness depends upon our response. No human project or love,
however great, may be preferred (" They left their boat and their father and
In this Sunday's liturgy we might pray for the gift of faith to follow Jesus
into the life of God's love. This is the faith that overcomes the world of
violence, darkness and death. And with the gift of sharing Christ's faith comes
a peace that surpasses understanding.
Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.