January 26, 2014
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
When he [Jesus] heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled: 15 "Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, 16 the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen." 17 From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
18 As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. 19 He said to them, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men." 20 At once they left their nets and followed him. 21 He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, 22 and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him.
23 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.
The arrest of John the Baptist signals the end of his ministry. The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are in agreement, portraying Jesus not beginning his ministry until John’s ministry had ended. However, John’s gospel portrays Jesus and John ministering concurrently. Some scholars believe that Jesus may have even been a disciple of John in the very early part of his ministry. He, like John, would have called people to repentance and baptism as a sign of their conversion. But as Jesus preached, he discovered that he was also gifted by God with the grace to heal. As he experienced this gift and it became more a part of his own ministry, his understanding of himself and his mission evolved. At some point he began to invite followers. The gospels do not give us a clear understanding of how Jesus came to his own awareness of his ministry. But such explanations seem to be compatible with the human experiences most of us might have.
While John is distinct in describing Jesus beginning his ministry while John is still alive, Matthew is unique in this use of quotes from the Hebrew Scriptures to explain events in Jesus’ life. The beginning of the gospel text for today states that Jesus moved from his home at Nazareth to the fishing community of Capernaum. Capernaum was on the trade routes. That would have provided a variety of people for Jesus to engage with his message of repentance and the coming reign of God. But the fact that Capernaum was within the Gentile territory could have been a real scandal. By quoting the great prophet Isaiah, Matthew suggests that that this move is not a scandal, but rather Jesus obeying the will of God, whose concern extends to the ends of the earth.
Followers of the Rabbis normally presented themselves for training. Contrary to this tradition, Jesus called his disciples. During the dry season, when farmers were waiting for the harvest, the work was left to servants. Traditionally, this was the time when men gathered to debate and “be seen.” It was the time when one who wished to promote a cause or had a grievance would gather followers. It was assumed that those followers would return to their normal daily lives. The pairs of brothers, Peter and Andrew, and James and John, are described as being part of one of the most successful and stable family businesses in the area. They are presented as leaving the business, their position in the community, and, in the case of James and John, even their father, to be come followers of Jesus.
Jesus’ ministry, as described in the text, begins with preaching a message that is similar to John’s: repentance to prepare for the coming of the Kingdom. After Jesus has attracted his first disciples, the ministry shifts to include healing the sick.
1. Have you ever moved from what was familiar to something very new and unfamiliar? What was going on inside you as you made that change? What did you discover about yourself, your relationships with others, and God?
2. What might have been going on within Jesus when he heard that his cousin John the Baptist had been arrested? What do you think his prayer might have been like during these days?
3. How does being personally asked to do something differ from you taking the initiative to apply or volunteer to take a role or responsibility?
4. Do you think it is significant that Jesus called the disciples?
5. What do you think it was like for James and John and Andrew and Peter to have Jesus come up to them and ask them to be his disciples?
6. What do you think those early days of Jesus’ ministry were like? What would it have been like to be part of Jesus’ inner circle at this point in his life?
7. Have ever wondered what God wants of you, or longed to do something for God?
8. Have you ever been afraid to think about what God desires of you, because it may be difficult, or because it may demand more of you than you are ready to endure?
9. When you reflect on Jesus’ calling the disciples in this text, are you led to be aware of the ways God has been working in your life to call you, too, to discipleship? If not, you may want to reflect on how God would present that invitation to you in our contemporary world.
10. From what you know of Peter, Andrew, James and John from other places in the gospel, what strikes you about Jesus’ invitation to them in the text here?
Reflection questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM.
They are edited by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF. and Joe Thiel.
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