- Isaiah 8:23 – 9:3. Darkness and gloom give way to light and joy. Great, victorious moments are renewed.
- 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17. Divisions should cease, even those in the name of Paul, Cephas, Apollos or Christ. We have all been baptized in the name of the one Lord and Savior, whose cross has become our gospel.
- Matthew 4:12-23. Jesus returns to Galilee to begin his public ministry. Here he calls his first disciples, two sets of brothers who immediately follow him. He proclaims the good news of the kingdom.
Thoughts for your consideration:
The lectionary readings for this week offer us a message of hope in the midst of major transitions. The first reading by Isaiah tells us about an impending hope and glory that will be brought into a land that is suffering in gloom and anguish. The land is identified as the “district of the gentiles” and the message of hope is that this land will experience a great sense of liberation and enlightenment. Verse 5 tells us how through whom this glorious transition will happen.
For a child shall be born to us… they name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.
Matthew saw this prophetic quote as the perfect scriptural passage to use as a conclusion to his four chapter introduction. This passage places a prophetic context to the amazing situation that has developed where Jesus will begin his public teaching ministry with the Sermon on the Mount in the gentile land of Galilee. Isaiah speaks of a glorious future transition for the suffering gentile community. For Matthew this transition is a present reality that is being lived out during the time this gospel was written which is approximately in the year 75 CE. In the Gospel reading we have Jesus inviting two sets of brothers to share in his ministry of bringing people back to God. This transition from a dark and gloomy social order to being healers and heralds of peace and justice is personified by Peter, Andrew, James and John taking up the call to follow Christ in proclaiming the kingdom of God in words and actions. These four were the first agents of change towards fulfilling the glorious transition that was foretold by Isaiah and begun through Christ. In Matthew’s account we are simply told that these brothers immediately left what they were doing and followed him.
We know from the rest of the Gospel story that the transition which these early disciples engaged in was not as simple or passive as we are lead to believe in this week’s gospel reading. The disciples faced many trials and tribulations as they carried out their exciting new community life and ministry. These trials included doubt, infighting, disagreements, betrayal, persecution and for many of them death. The message of a future hope does not negate the reality of a present suffering. Transitions are never easy. While our faith offers us a future promise of hope the fact is that our present transitions challenge us in so many ways. Individually many of us face and will continue to face personal experiences of transitions that will take us out of our comfort zone. As a society and as a church we are also aware of the massive transition that we now face that will challenge us in becoming a global family. How will we respond to these challenges?
In the second reading Paul warns the Corinthian community that their transition into the Christian family cannot emulate the bad characteristic that was very much a part of their social order. Division, rivalries and jealousy are very much part of the human condition but they are not part of the Christian liberating experience. This experience will be marked by unity in serving the gospel message of hope. The disciples and early Christians were offered a glimpse of what is to come while they help transform the social order.
We as individuals and as a society our given a message of hope for a future of justice and peace that is to come. We are called to be agents of hope in this dark and gloomy world of ours. We are agents of change, but this change is not our own. We, like the early disciples, are invited to share in Jesus’ divine mission. This social and personal transformation must not carry the darker elements of our present social order. The Catholic social tradition has continued to offer us Paul’s warning by calling us to live in a spirit of unity that is working together to transform our society towards a “culture of life”.
The first and fundamental step towards this cultural transformation consists in forming consciences with regard to the incomparable and inviolable worth of every human life. –Evangelium Vitae #96
To engage in this liberating mission we have to put off our human proclivity towards our own self-interest. In retaining our self-interest will we inevitably begin to create social divisions that first qualify then discriminate human life. Some of us will discard those who are unborn by defining them outside of human life. Others will define people of a certain ethnic or religious background as second class citizens not fully worthy of the dignity that we recognize in ourselves. And some of us may believe that criminal actions have forfeited the dignity and rights of other s. These are social tendencies that are simply not consistent with the social vision that Jesus offers. As agents of change we need to be the first defenders of this consistent ethic of life where we protect and defend the dignity and rights of all.