In the former time God brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness-on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder.
I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brethren. What I mean is that each one of you says, "I belong to Paul," or "I belong to Apol'los," 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? For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: "Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by 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 dawned."
From that time Jesus began to proclaim, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."
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 fish for people." Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John , in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.
The opening prayer of today's Mass could serve as a focus around which the homilist could develop various themes. The prayer speaks about the love of God directing us to unity and peace. In the Gospel we see the love of God effective in the life of Jesus particularly in the summary of his ministry as teaching, preaching and healing. Often people get a distorted image of God, as demanding or punishing. Against this type of thought the great authentic picture of God and his attitude towards us is the life and behaviour Of Jesus. There we can seethe love of God in a imaginative way and come to appreciate his truth. Jesus' life gathered people together; he formed a community. The beginnings of that aspect of him ministry is shown in his call of the disciples. Again the assembly of a group of people who are called to live in faith and trust and love is a sign of God's effective love breaking down the barriers of misunderstanding hatred and fear that often characterise our relationships with each.
The effective love of God coming in to our world in the person of Jesus enables us to go forth from our isolation and join with others in community. In God there is the communion of the Three Divine Persons and they are bonded together through the Spirit. In the ministry of Jesus that unity is given to us through the Spirit, but is not an automatic gift People have to co-operate with it. In the letter of Paul we see the experience of the early Christians, their difficulties and their strengths. On the human level the communion we are called to" the vocation to love as the Father loves, is impossible; yet the strength of the Word, in the preaching of the Cross and effectiveness of the sacraments shown in baptism encourages us. The dynamic force that binds us together is of God. One might explain that this call to love works itself out in the everyday things of the family, the little church, in the various contacts that we make with people, in the services that we give or receive. Through all of these we are Christ in our world, and we continue to show forth his ministry and in our way we share in the Church as sacrament of salvation and light of the nations.
Alternatively, one might focus on the quotation from the prophecy of Isaiah, about the people who once walked in darkness. For the townspeople of Capernaum Jesus was just anew resident coming to live among them. He did not move far from his home town of Nazareth, where he had been a carpenter. The plan of God was effected in this ordinary event. When Jesus met Peter and his brother by the lake they were at their daily work and his powerful personality touched them in such a mysterious way that they left and became disciples. Many of those cured by him met him in their own towns and villages. The plan of God to save reached them where they were. One might bring out the fact that God touched us where we are in the ordinary events of life and they are all as much of God's plan as if they were predicted in the Scriptures. The eye of faith needs to search to discern the finger of God.
Today's gospel is about Jesus beginning his mission, calling his first disciples, and beginning to travel from place to place, to proclaim that the kingdom of God was close at hand. It marks the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. John had been arrested, so that was the end of the ministry of John. The gospel tells us that instead of going to Nazareth (in other words, instead of going home), Jesus went to Capernaum. The show was on the road, as it were. As it happened, the prophet had foretold that this would happen. I don't think that the sayings of the prophets are what influenced Jesus. He was led by the Spirit, and that led him into the fulfilling of all the prophecies. Aren't they powerful words used by the prophet to describe what happens when Jesus appears among them? "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who lived in the land where death cast its shadow, a light has shone." Jesus would later refer to himself as the light of the world; and, in commissioning his apostles, he would tell them that they, now, were to be a light to the world.
The message of Jesus is a simple one. "Turn from your sins, and turn to God, because the kingdom of heaven is near." I said earlier that the clearer my goal or vision, the higher will be the level of my energy in bringing that about. Sin is a false goal, an untrue vision, and an empty promise. It is immediate, selfish, and is self-will run riot. It is the result of behaviour that is out of control, through a compulsion, addiction, or selfish whim. It can never satisfy because, outside the kingdom of Cod I am an exile, pining for home. Even in the depth of my sin the kingdom of God is near. I just have to reach out, and Jesus is there.
Today's gospel reports the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. John had been arrested, so that was the end of his active input to the religious revival of his people. The gospel tells us that instead of going to Nazareth (in other words, instead of going home), Jesus went to Capernaum. The show was on the road, as it were. Aren't the words used by the prophet powerful to describe what happens when Jesus began his ministry,"The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who lived in the land where death cast its shadow, a light has shone." Jesus would later refer to himself as the light of the world; and, in commissioning his apostles, he would tell them that they, too, were to be light to the world.
The message of Jesus is a simple one. "Turn from your sins, and turn to God, because the kingdom of heaven is near." When I was growing up the word "vocation" was highjacked by priests and religious. It has been given back to the laity, and more and more baptised people are actually experiencing themselves as being called. There is nothing dramatic about this. It just means that I don't just stumble into the Christian way by default, but that God has chosen me: "I have called you by name; you are mine." "You didn't choose me; no, I chose you, and I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that would remain." If the gospel is now, and I am every person in the gospel, then, through the gospel of today, I am being called again.
"Turn from your sins, and turn to God, because the kingdom of God is near." There is a story told about Leonardo da Vinci's famous painting of the Last Supper. Leonardo searched far and wide for what he considered to be an ideal model for each person in the scene. He began with a fine-looking young man, full of vitality, and chose him as a perfect model for Jesus. He followed with other models for each of the apostles, and the work took quite a while. He left Judas till last, not knowing who could represent him. Finally, he came across a tramp sleeping rough, whom he thought that would probably sell his soul for money. Leonardo persuaded him to come to his studio. While the work was in progress, both of them came to the same realisation. This man had been in the same studio before, representing Jesus; but he had gone astray, lost his way, and was now on Skid Row. It was a shock to de Vinci, and a sharp prod to conversion for the man.