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Christ came to save us all

Mary Jo Tully
Chancellor, Archdiocese of Portland

January, 26, 2014
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 8:23 - 9:3
1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17
Matthew 4:12-23 or 4:12-17

After John the Baptist had been arrested, Jesus moved to Galilee. Some say that Jesus did this to ensure his own safety; it is far more likely that the Lord is making another point. The arrest of John the Baptist and Jesus’ move to Galilee provide a wonderful opportunity for Matthew’s transition from the Old Law to the New. The evangelist points to salvation not being limited to the Jews by quoting the Prophet Isaiah who refers to “Galilee of the Gentiles.” These people, he says, “ who have walked in darkness have seen a great light.”

We are reminded that Jesus fulfills this prophecy. If we had any doubt, Matthew’s Gospel makes the connection between John the Baptist and Jesus very clear. John’s message, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” (Matthew 3:2) is the summary message that Jesus preaches when he begins his public ministry in Capernaum.

Capernaum was a little fishing village on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee; Lying along the border of the territories of Zebulon and Naphtali (see first reading). The village is mentioned 16 times in the New Testament. It became Jesus’ headquarters during his public ministry. He performed many miracles here and chose his first four disciples from this town.

In this story, Matthew forcefully opens the message of Jesus to the Gentiles and tells the Jews that Jesus’ message is for all. Gospel tells us, “From that time on, Jesus began to preach…” It seems to signal a change in Jesus’ tone. How much more direct could he be: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The beginning of the preaching of Jesus is stated in the same formula as the teaching of John the Baptist. This is a message that John’s followers knew well. Baptism, confession of sins and the accomplishing of good works show repentance for these followers.

Jesus proclamation is asserted with authority. Jesus began his mission and announced the message that would be the subtext for all that he would say. Immediately after, the Gospel recounts the story of Jesus’ calling his first and closest associates. Jesus chose to unite himself with others—those first disciples and with us—to accomplish his mission.

In today’s epistle, St. Paul tells us that we are to “be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.” Jesus’ mission has been entrusted to us. He is the “great light” of whom Isaiah speaks. This is the message that brings “abundant joy and great rejoicing.”

The prophetic call to repentance was spoken to historically sinful Israel—the old Israel. Jesus, though, points to the universality of sin and the interior change of belief and attitude necessary to escape from it. One turns from sin by repentance and turns to the Father through Jesus Christ by faith.

At this Eucharist, we remember that the call to evangelize is universal. We begin with ourselves—those who have accepted the Gospel. Only then can we reach out to others.

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