Gospel according to 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.
Zebulun and Naphtali were northern territories of Israel (as opposed to the capital, Jerusalem, in the south), inhabited by both Jews and Gentiles and referred to by the prophet Isaiah as “Galilee of the Gentiles.” The area had been re-populated by the Assyrians with pagan peoples after carrying away the Israelites to Nineveh and other parts of Assyria. The ignorance of the new settlers of the God of Israel, the worship of their own gods, and the unchanged suffering of those who were left behind have turned this “Galilee of the Gentiles” into a place of darkness and a land overshadowed by death.
Isaiah, however, had prophesied of the time when a great light would arise that would dispel the gloom and darkness over the land. This would be brought about by a new Davidic King, who is given wonderful name: “Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace” (Is 95). He is probably to be identified with the Emmanuel of ls 7:14.
Matthew declares that Isaiah’s oracle is being fulfilled in Jesus’ activity in Galilee. Jesus is the true “Emmanuel”—God’s presence among his people (Mt 1:23). He is “king of the Jews” whose birth is marked by the appearance of a star in the east (Mt 2:3).The light now shines as brightly as Jesus begins his ministry. He proclaims the Good Mews of salvation: God’s word which is “a lamp for my feet and a light for my path” (Ps 119:105).
The divine word that lighten our lives is highlighted in today’s first-ever celebration of the Sunday of the Word of God. On September 30 last year, as the Church started celebrating the 1600th death anniversary of St. Jerome (the great Bible scholar who translated -the Bible into Latin), Pope Francis published his Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio titled Aperuit Illis, instituting the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time as the Sunday of the Word of God. Francis writes that this Sunday is “a Sunday given over entirely to the word of God, so as to appreciated the inexhaustible riches contained in that constant dialogue between God and his people. Devoting a specific Sunday of the liturgical year to the word of God can enable the Church to experience anew how the risen Lord opens up for us the treasury of his word and enables us to proclaim its unfathomable riches before the World” (no. 2).
How do we celebrate this particular feast? Among others, Pope Francis notes: “The various communities will find their own ways to mark this Sunday with a certain solemnity. It is important, however, that in the Eucharistic celebration the sacred text be enthroned, in order to focus the attention of the assembly on the normative value of God’s word. On this Sunday, it would be particularly appropriate to highlight the proclamation of the word of the Lord and to emphasize in the homily the honor that it is due. Bishops could celebrate the Rite of Installation of Lectors or a similar commissioning of readers, in order to bring out the importance of the proclamation of God’s word in the liturgy” (no. 3).
The encounter with the saving Word leads to action. Pope Francis further notes: “Another challenge raised by sacred Scripture has to do with love. God’s word constantly reminds us of the merciful love of the Father who calls his children to live in love. The life of Jesus is the full and perfect expression of this divine love, which holds nothing back but offers itself to all without reserve” (no. 13).
Lastly, we turn our hearts to Mary, the Mother of the Word Incarnate. Pope Francis concludes Aperuit Illis with the words: “Along our path of welcoming God’s word into our hearts, the Mother of the Lord accompanies us. She is the one who was called blessed because she believed in the fulfillment of what the Lord had spoken to her (cf. Lk 1:45)” (no. 15). — Fr.Gil Alinsangan, SSP