Is. 8:33-9:3; 1 Cor.1:10-13,17; Mt. 4:12-23
Our Gospel passage today opens with the note that John the Baptist had already been arrested. Jesus took that as the sign the he was now to go out and begin his public ministry. He was now to make Capernaum his headquarters in the house of Simon Peter. (Many of us think that Peter was a poor fisherman. In truth he had a puesto across the lake in the city of Tiberias, something like a fish stall in Navotas, and therefore his house in Capernaum was big enough to accommodate the preacher from Nazareth.) Matthew quotes Isaiah saying that the place was “Galilee of the Gentiles,” that “sits in darkness” and is in “the shadow of death.” Now with the presence of Jesus “light has arisen” and the people “have seen a great light.” Let us look back at our own Philippines before the missionaries arrived and we were “in darkness” and in the “shadow of death;” then with the preaching of the Gospel “light had arisen” and we had “seen a great light.” There are still Filipinos who do not appreciate the godly effects of the Catholic faith on our culture and civilization, and paint an ugly picture of the Spanish missionaries. It is time we appreciate this beautiful gift from God showered on our people that makes our country distinct from those around us.
Then Jesus asks each of us: “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” If we are to turn from sin to Jesus, the first action must be repentance. If we are to receive grace, we must cleanse ourselves of sin. That is why at the opening of the Mass we start with “I confess” and “Lord, have mercy.” So long as un-repented sin is present, a blockade against grace exists and God cannot shower his gifts upon us. It would be a good practice to make an act of contrition before offering our works of mercy to the Lord; before packing our relief goods for distribution, and again before we give them out to the victims of disasters. Having repented of sins, and offering our good works to the Lord, abundant grace will surely flow back to us.
Right at the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus called and trained men whom he would send out to proclaim the Gospel and to perform the signs and wonders he himself was doing. Peter and Andrew were first called; then he called James and John, sons of Zebedee. On James and John, St. Mark reports that “they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him” (Mk.1:19). Zebedee had “hired men”, and therefore he too, like Peter, was no poor fisherman; we can think of a fishing “lancha” or a “basnigan”. Knowing the lucrative livelihood they left behind, we admire the renunciation they made in their decision to follow Jesus. We can also consider what convincing personality they must have seen in Jesus that they “left everything and followed him;” we can also perceive in their response to the Lord’s invitation a mysterious power in the word of Jesus, exuding in his voice and flowing out from his eyes.Our Gospel passage concludes that “He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.” Teaching and proclaiming means the Word: Jesus himself is the Word of the Father. In Genesis, by the Word all things came into being; he was causing our creation. Now in the Gospel, he is causing our re-creation, making all things new in the life of grace, making us all children of our heavenly Father. By our own sins we incurred illnesses, and he comes curing and healing. He is making us new not only by teaching, giving us new way of thinking and evaluating things and persons, and developing new attitudes; he is also making our bodies new by healing. Jesus is the creative Word of the Father is Genesis, in the Gospel he is the re-creating Word, curing and healing our minds and bodies. We invite him to do that for us by receiving him worthily in Holy Communion, inviting him to come to us and heal us in mind and body. Let us pause for a while, close our eyes, and speak to Jesus. “Come, Lord Jesus into my heart: cleanse me, purify me, heal me, and make me new creation, a worthy son/daughter of my heavenly Father. Amen.”