Green Room

Sunday reflection: Matthew 4:12-23

posted at 11:14 am on January 26, 2014 by

“Sunday Reflection” is a regular Green Room feature, looking at the specific readings used in today’s Mass in Catholic parishes around the world. The reflection only represents my own point of view, intended to help prepare myself for the Lord’s day and perhaps spark a meaningful discussion

Today’s gospel reading is Matthew 4:12-23:

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled: Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen. From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

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. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. 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, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him. 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.

Today’s Gospel puts us at the start of the public ministry of Jesus. In the passages of Matthew preceding today’s reading, John had baptized Jesus and recognized that He was the One for whom John had prepared the people. Jesus left for his test in the desert, and John had been arrested. When Jesus had triumphed over Satan — by rejecting the three temptations that had caused Adam and the Israelites to fall — Jesus returns just as John leaves the stage.

This is not the only completion/transition in today’s readings. The entry of Jesus into Zebulun and Naphtali is foreshadowed in our Old Testament reading today, Isaiah 8:23-9:3. “First the Lord degraded the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,” the prophet instructed, “but in the end he has glorified the seaward road.” The end is Jesus, the Alpha and the Omega, who works immediately to build his kingdom in the formerly degraded land by shining his light and gathering workers for the kingdom — fishers of men.

Note the parallel between the degraded land as the place of ultimate glory, and the humble men chosen to build the kingdom. Why does Jesus not choose scholars steeped in the Word for his first disciples? Jesus could have chosen those whose authority was already recognized in order to make a bigger impression, but instead He seemingly chooses the first few people He sees to become the backbone of the Church. Why? He comes to lift up the lowly, as he will make clear in the Beatitudes shortly afterward. He was himself born in the most meager of circumstances, showing His care for the poor.

These men, living off of the land, had little room for anything other than their livelihoods. A day or two off from their work besides the Sabbath could mean hardship for themselves and their families. Wealthier men could possibly afford to walk away from their daily cares to follow an itinerant preacher, out of curiosity or amusement, but those luxuries were not available to fishermen on the Sea of Galilee. And yet, when Jesus beckons them, Peter and Andrew, and then James and John drop what they are doing without any provision for the future to follow the call of salvation. Not only did they risk their own well-being, but that of their families; Peter was married, and James and John worked for their father. The witness of their obedience to Jesus’ ministry and message — the Gospel — is all the more dramatic and awe-inspiring.

And what is His message and ministry? A call to repentance, and healing afterward. In the very next verse, Matthew teaches that Jesus and his disciples went all through Galilee — the formerly “degraded” land — “preaching the gospel of the Kingdom and healing every disease and infirmity among the people.” Naphtali and Zebulun had been invaded and corrupted by Assyrians, just as humanity had been infected by sin. Jesus would heal the sick and infirm to demonstrate the healing power of God’s love and its triumph over sin, and would use these humble men to show how God’s love — and God’s authority rather than their own — would provide salvation for all, and not just the wealthy and powerful. In doing so, the formerly degraded land would end up being the road to Heaven.

That obedience and humble acceptance as apostles continued afterward. In our second reading today, 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17, Paul scolds the emerging church in Corinth for dividing into factions.

For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers and sisters, by Chloe’s people, that there are rivalries among you. I mean that each of you is saying, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

The obedience and humility of the first apostles were meant to teach us not just that we have to embrace the Gospel, but also recognize that ultimate authority and salvation in full derives from Jesus Christ. Paul and the other apostles were given the leadership of the Church on Earth, but the apostles are never greater than Christ. On the other hand, by embracing Christ as Savior, no man is in the end higher or lower than another in the Kingdom of Heaven. Paul’s writings to the churches in Scripture emphasize this — subtly at times, when he greets all with “brothers and sisters” to show equality in the kingdom, and more directly at times when he scolds the Corinthians for turning the “love feast” of the Eucharist into another opportunity to stratify people into classes.

The message of Christ is clear. Repent, and even the lowly — including those who must spend almost all of their time finding food and shelter — will have an equal share and equal standing in salvation. Instead of striving for false authority, we need to recognize our own sinfulness and equality in the lowly status of humanity, and then seek to lift our brothers and sisters to salvation as well.

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Thanks Ed…
Blessings!

OmahaConservative on January 26, 2014 at 11:27 AM

…nice message!

KOOLAID2 on January 26, 2014 at 12:11 PM

Well done Ed.

Fuquay Steve on January 26, 2014 at 12:21 PM

At once they left their nets and followed him.

The force of His personality compelled them to follow. The Scriptures states, “As certainly as I live, declares the Lord, every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will praise God.”

When we see our our God and Savior the Lord Jesus Christ in His divine fulness we will have no over response.

Those who mock and blaspheme on Hot Air will see the Truth and submit.

by rejecting the three temptations that had caused Adam and the Israelites to fall

And all of us.

davidk on January 26, 2014 at 1:23 PM

over = other

davidk on January 26, 2014 at 1:23 PM

Ed,where you ever in the seminary? You seem suspiciously well informed.

celtic warrior on January 26, 2014 at 2:22 PM

celtic warrior on January 26, 2014 at 2:22 PM

No, but I thank you for the compliment. I’ve been fortunate enough to have some excellent priests and formation, especially over the last few years.

Ed Morrissey on January 26, 2014 at 2:43 PM

I’ve been fortunate enough to have some excellent priests and formation, especially over the last few years.

Ed Morrissey on January 26, 2014 at 2:43 PM

Always seemed when I was growing up, all the “cool” priest never stayed around for long…but the boring, monotone older priests never left.

JetBoy on January 26, 2014 at 6:22 PM

Always seemed when I was growing up, all the “cool” priest never stayed around for long…but the boring, monotone older priests never left.

JetBoy on January 26, 2014 at 6:22 PM

I miss my “monotone older priest”. He served in the Merchant Marine during WWII, graduated from the Coast Guard Academy, and was a gruff sailor kind of guy, but when all hands were needed on deck, he was always there.

His sermons stank.

Once I was teeter tottering with my daughter in a park and fell over while trying to get to her because she was about to fall off. Damned if the “monotone older priest”, who had come up unannounced, didn’t drop his cane and dive for her.

http://www.staugustine.cc/holland-memorial.html

unclesmrgol on January 26, 2014 at 9:50 PM

Thank you Ed. Blessings to you and yours

southernms on January 26, 2014 at 11:04 PM

Very nice Ed. You may very well convince me to go back to church.

Vince on January 26, 2014 at 11:57 PM

The calling of the apostles reminds me that Christ is in the business of “turning ordinary males into extrordinary men” as David Murrow so aptly phrased it.

Galtian on January 27, 2014 at 8:27 AM

Interesting that the first word of Jesus’ public ministry was “repent”. This seems to be a requirement that many so called “Christians” think doesn’t apply anymore.

tommyboy on January 27, 2014 at 9:37 AM

Thanks, Ed.

I am so glad this is a weekly feature.

Elisa on January 27, 2014 at 9:44 AM

Ed, ever think about becoming a Deacon?

tommer74 on January 27, 2014 at 10:57 AM

Ed, ever think about becoming a Deacon?

tommer74 on January 27, 2014 at 10:57 AM

I’m actively discerning on that question, actually.

Ed Morrissey on January 27, 2014 at 11:03 AM

I’m actively discerning on that question, actually.

Ed Morrissey on January 27, 2014 at 11:03 AM

I kind of suspected that when you started this feature – it’s a very deacon-ish thing to do. Bringing the Gospel to the people where they are – thank you! I’m loving me some Sunday Reflection!

Shay on January 27, 2014 at 11:17 AM

I’m actively discerning on that question, actually.

Ed Morrissey on January 27, 2014 at 11:03 AM

When I read your reflections on the Scripture, it was like hearing the Deacon’s sermon again.

tommer74 on January 27, 2014 at 1:09 PM

It truly boggles the mind to consider that otherwise rational-seeming people believe this sort of fantastic nonsense.

DarkCurrent on January 27, 2014 at 1:10 PM

Then why do you click on something that’s specifically titled “Sunday Reflection” and carries a reference to Bible verses? No one’s forcing you to read it.

Ed Morrissey on January 27, 2014 at 1:31 PM

Ed – my priest had an interesting take on this Gospel that took it a little deeper than I had previously viewed it.

Special note that Christ calls two pair of brothers to follow him in this Gospel reading: one pair of brothers was actively fishing… the other pair was tending its nets… that distinction is important. The priest who said my Mass is, in fact, an avid fisherman and he talked about when fisherman pull up their nets filled with fish, the fish will immediately head toward the bottom of the net as a means to escape. In fact many fish who have sharp fins (many do) flail at the bottom of the net not because they are gasping for water (as a non-fisherman like myself may observe), but rather to use their fins to slice the nets and make their escape, and many succeed; hence, the need to mend one’s nets.

So in this sense, Christ (or Matthew in this case as the teller of the story) could be signaling not only that He seeks his disciples to bring others into the faith, but also to work diligently to build and provide a Church that is so strong in its foundation and its convictions and its love, that its members won’t feel compelled or even want to leave.

dpduq on January 27, 2014 at 1:39 PM

Then why do you click on something that’s specifically titled “Sunday Reflection” and carries a reference to Bible verses? No one’s forcing you to read it.

Ed Morrissey on January 27, 2014 at 1:31 PM

Because it boggles the mind :)

DarkCurrent on January 27, 2014 at 2:59 PM

Because it boggles the mind :)

DarkCurrent on January 27, 2014 at 2:59 PM

It is awesome to realize how little we know about our universe. Some of us are not afraid to listen and maybe have a life changing experience.

If you are confident in yourself and your beliefs, you do not have to fear that you will be suckered into anything. Maybe you have an alternative to offer that will lift people up instead of dragging them down.

Vince on January 27, 2014 at 3:23 PM

I’m actively discerning on that question, actually.

Ed Morrissey on January 27, 2014 at 11:03 AM

That’s awesome. Agree w/ others that this feature besides just being a great Sunday read, is a very deacon thing to do. If you do decide to enter the diaconate some time in the future, am sure lots of us would love to hear about it :).

inviolet on January 27, 2014 at 3:26 PM

If you are confident in yourself and your beliefs, you do not have to fear that you will be suckered into anything. Maybe you have an alternative to offer that will lift people up instead of dragging them down.

Vince on January 27, 2014 at 3:23 PM

Very good points. Well taken.

DarkCurrent on January 27, 2014 at 3:39 PM

I’m actively discerning on that question, actually.

Ed Morrissey on January 27, 2014 at 11:03 AM

I think you would make an excellent deacon.

I’m sure many here will pray for you during your discernment. Either way, I am confident God will continue to use you for His greater glory and to build up His Church and I’m confident that either way you will be open to His Holy Will.

God bless you and your family always.

Elisa on January 27, 2014 at 11:13 PM

I kind of suspected that when you started this feature – it’s a very deacon-ish thing to do. Bringing the Gospel to the people where they are – thank you! I’m loving me some Sunday Reflection!

Shay on January 27, 2014 at 11:17 AM

Love that word “deacon-ish.” lol. Very true.

Elisa on January 27, 2014 at 11:14 PM

Ed – my priest had an interesting take on this Gospel that took it a little deeper than I had previously viewed it.

Special note that Christ calls two pair of brothers to follow him in this Gospel reading: one pair of brothers was actively fishing… the other pair was tending its nets… that distinction is important. The priest who said my Mass is, in fact, an avid fisherman and he talked about when fisherman pull up their nets filled with fish, the fish will immediately head toward the bottom of the net as a means to escape. In fact many fish who have sharp fins (many do) flail at the bottom of the net not because they are gasping for water (as a non-fisherman like myself may observe), but rather to use their fins to slice the nets and make their escape, and many succeed; hence, the need to mend one’s nets.

So in this sense, Christ (or Matthew in this case as the teller of the story) could be signaling not only that He seeks his disciples to bring others into the faith, but also to work diligently to build and provide a Church that is so strong in its foundation and its convictions and its love, that its members won’t feel compelled or even want to leave.

dpduq on January 27, 2014 at 1:39 PM

Very interesting. Thanks.

Elisa on January 27, 2014 at 11:15 PM