Isaiah 8, 23-9,3- + Psalm 27 + 1 Corinthians 1, 1-13 + Matthew 4, 12-23
St. Peter the Apostle & St. William Churches in Naples, FL 26 January 2020
The voice in the wilderness that we know as John the Baptist has been silenced, and now the one he announced is found in Galilee, an unlikely place. Galilee is prosperous, a kind of international territory through which trade routes passed and local industry thrived, like fishing. In those days, it was quite a distance from Judah and the holy city of Jerusalem to the south. Between the two lies that unfriendly place called “Samaria.” Matthew places the beginning of the ministry of Jesus in Galilee to confirm the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy which we just heard again after reading it on Christmas. Zebulun and Naphtali are in Galilee. It is a place that suffered greatly after conquest by the Assyrians, a conquest made easy because of internal corruption and intrigue in high places. Isaiah writes to console and lift the hopes of these people.
We should not listen to this Gospel and think that these four named and called in these verses were poor and had nothing to lose by falling under the spell of this man from Capernaum. It is not so. There are plenty of clues here to suggest that they were men of means, professionals at their trade, family men who worked and did well enough to own their own nets and boats. They had something leave behind, an established business, and they did it. What I believe Matthew wants to stress is the initiative and the personal impact of Jesus, and Peter and Andrew’s readiness to follow him immediately. A light has come, says the prophet, and these men are drawn to the light.
When we proclaim this living Word of God today, it is not to recall an invitation back in the past. It is to awaken us to the fact and the truth that this light, Jesus Christ, is calling yet again. His call to discipleship is addressed to each one of us. No matter what our life-style or social situation may be, we are called to follow him and it will mean we leave something behind. There are things in each of our lives that keep us from being faithful disciples. There are too many things in every life that contradict our baptismal calling. We tolerate or ignore too many social structures that are contrary to the Gospel of love and respect for human dignity. Each of us has to name for ourselves, in our own time and place, how we must radically turn our hearts to the following of Jesus and leave behind whatever it is that keeps us from being a true and committed disciple.
The world in which we live is still confounded by corruption and intrigue in high places, just like Galilee. It waits in darkness full of fear, illness, pain, sin, guilt, loneliness and way more besides. The light of Christ is needed here as much as it ever was in Galilee. Disciples of Jesus Christ called to follow him are the only hope for this world, the only hope for light in the darkness. Let me remind you that on the day of our Baptism, a candle lit from the Easter Candle was handed over to us into the hands of a parent or god-parent.
We take courage today in the face of violence that is as global as terrorism or as local as abused families, encouraged to hope in God’s deliverance as today’s Psalm proclaimed that God may work through the surprising presence of our sisters and brothers, so that we may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of our lives.