January 22, 2023 Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Welcome Father Brandt Today’s Readings: Is 8:23—9:3 | 1 Cor 1:10-13, 17 | Mt 4:12-23 or 4:12-17

Today’s Gospel Reading tells us about the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. The Evangelist tells us that after John the Baptist had been imprisoned by Herod Antipas, and as spoken by the prophets, Jesus withdrew “to Galilee” and began His own proclamation. The motive for Jesus making this move seems to be the arrest of John the Baptist. While no details are given about the arrest of John, it looks as if Jesus is continuing the work started by him, his own mission of God’s Kingdom. He preaches in Galilee and works in Capernaum which presents him as the light of nations as told by Isaiah but more precisely he begins on the western shore of the sea that was occupied by many small but prosperous cities and towns. This provided Jesus with the opportunity of ministering to a large number of people within a reasonable walking distance. Galilee was known as a rebellious region where even Jews were noted for their non-observance of the Law. Jesus begins his ministry in such a challenging place with the special chosen message and his preaching is summed up in one simple sentence: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near; it is close at hand.”

The preaching of the Good News of Jesus begins with the word, Repent. His invitation to repent is to enter into a special relationship with God in response to his call. For ‘repent’ usually means to be sorry for, to regret some wrong actions we have done in the past. Jesus is asking for much more than that. It is a call, not to wipe out the past, which is really not possible for any human person, but for a change of direction from now on and enter into a new future. The Greek word, rendered by many translations as equivalent to ‘repent’, is metanoia. This word implies a radical change of heart, change in one’s thinking, total transformation. It also means looking at life in a completely new way, making what is sometimes called a ‘paradigm shift’. This new way of seeing life is spelt out through the whole of the Christian Testament.

The Good news that Jesus preaches is that people have to repent and change themselves as the kingdom of God is near. It is the good news of hope, peace, promise, truth and salvation that is contained in the kingdom. Jesus comes to his people as the herald or the messenger of good news. His message of the kingdom has certainty and assurance; it has total authority and power because it comes from the source which is God himself. The Scriptures indicate that the kingdom of God existed at the foundation of the world. It is the authority of God over everything that he created for John tells us that everything was created in and through Jesus. The mission of Jesus now is to re-establish this divine kingdom. There is the immediacy and the urgency in his proclamation as he says it is here and now.

As Jesus began his public ministry his first act was to gather some disciples or co-workers who would share his work and his mission. Jesus recruited Simon, who is called Peter, his brother Andrew, James and John, the sons of Zebedee. When Jesus called them their response was immediate. They left everything, their fishing nets, their parents and family and followed Jesus to be Disciples of Christ. The story of the calling of the first disciples showed their immediate and unconditional response to the summons of Jesus. The initiative for the call comes from Jesus but their response was total. Even though they had no previous knowledge of Jesus, they dropped what they were doing, left all their possessions and their dear ones to be with Jesus. This calling his first disciples indicates the beginning of the time of the church. On the surface level this may not make any sense to an outsider. However, it emphasizes that there was something almost indefinable about the person of Jesus that drew these first followers like a very strong magnet. They left everything not knowing where all this would lead.

Today’s readings are intended to stir us into action. The Gospel tells us that the spread of Christ’s kingdom depends on us today as it was with the Apostles during the time of Jesus. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians counsels us today not to participate in the factions within our church and between the churches. Prophet Isaiah reminds us that God’s light is always being offered to us as it was to a people who had suffered exile, oppression, fear and shame. We who practice our religion should walk as those faithful people of old walked, allowing ones whole being to become flooded with joyous light. Light acquires transcendental quality, penetrating the soul, opening the heart and making our life open to the many who seek the truth.

Source: Fr. Eugene Lobo S.J. Shimoga, India. Shortened from https://msjnov.wordpress.com/2023/01/15/third-sunday-of-the-year-january-22-2023/ Image: Duccio di Buoninsegna - Calling of Peter and Andrew