JESUS BEGAN HIS MINISTRY NOT IN JERUSALEM
(A biblical refection on THE 3rd ORDINARY SUNDAY [YEAR A] – 22 January 2017)
Gospel Reading: Matthew 4:12-23
First Reading: Isaiah 8:23-9:3 (9:1-4 RSV); Psalms: Psalm 27:1,4,13-14; Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:10-13,17
Now when He heard that John had been arrested, He withdrew into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth He went and dwelt in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, toward the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawn.” From the time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
As He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. And going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and He called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.
And He went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people. (Matthew 4:12-23 RSV)
Jesus began His ministry not in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, but far to the north, in Galilee (Matthew 4:15-17). Wasn’t it a big surprise for us? Galilee was literally surrounded by Gentiles. To the west were the Phoenicians, to the north and east the Syrians, and to the south were the Samaritans. Why would God choose such an isolated enclave?
Isaiah had prophesied that this “Galilee of the nations” would experience God’s light breaking through the darkness of sin and division (Isaiah 9:1-2). It would be here where many of the great roads of the world passed, that the light of salvation would first shine, drawing to itself people of all backgrounds.
During this “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity” (January 18-25), it’s good to remember that Jesus Himself is the prime principle of unity. He is our one hope for healing a divided church. When He walked the earth, people flocked to Him from all over (Matthew 4:24-25). And today, wherever He is loved and adored, people are drawn to put aside differences and gather around Him. Only Jesus could possibly overcome the centuries of divisions that have plagued the body of Christ!
Today’s second reading reminds us, however, that each of us must cooperate with the Lord in bringing about Christian unity. Just as Paul pleaded with the Corinthians to overcome their divisions, the Holy Spirit pleads with us to put aside all the sins that lead to division: prejudice, fear, pride, and self-sufficiency. Jesus wants us to come together so that our light can shine all the brighter. And the only way we can come together is as we come closer to Him. So let His light banish our inner darkness. As we do so, we’ll find ourselves drawn closer to His people – until the day comes when there really is one Church gathered around one altar singing the praises of the one true God.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, break down the walls of division among Your people. Let all Christians be united in one Spirit in the bond of peace and love. Amen.
Jakarta, 19 January 2017
A Christian Pilgrim