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SUNDAY GOSPEL REFLECTION FROM VATICAN RADIO

(English version exclusive to this website)

Translated and summarized from the homily by Fr Fabio Rosini

January 22nd 2023. Third Sunday of Ordinary Time

GOSPEL: Matthew 4, 12-23

Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini broadcast on Vatican Radio

 

Don Fabio’s homily follows the Gospel

 

GOSPEL: 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.

The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ

 

1. The Gospel passage mentions the prophecy in Isaiah of darkness being transformed to light. In the Old Testament there are many instances of God giving victory to those who are small or insignificant.

On this Sunday which Pope Francis wishes to be dedicated to the Word of God, we reflect on the power of God’s work to being light and joy. In the first reading, we read how the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. This phrase refers to multiple things. The reference to “the day of Midian” refers to an event in the book of Judges when an insignificant member of the smallest family of Israel managed to win a great victory against a superior number of warriors, liberating the nation from oppression. This story of Gideon is a story of the weak defeating the strong, as is the tale of David defeating Goliath or the people of Israel overcoming the power of Egypt at the crossing of the Red Sea. Death is changed to life, darkness to light, that which we despise is turned into something glorious.

 

2. The Gospel is first announced by Jesus in an area of great confusion and darkness.

The Gospel passage from Matthew tells of the onset of the ministry of Jesus at the moment when John is arrested. As so often happens, what seems to be the end is actually the beginning. Jesus goes to preach in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that the prophecy of Isaiah might be fulfilled. We must remember that Israel was not a compact or isolated entity at the time of Jesus. The area of the Decapolis had ten cities which were pagan in nature. The “way of the sea” was a valley that went from the east towards the Mediterranean. It was an easy route for travel and had very heavy traffic. This area must have seemed a bit like Babylon, an area of promiscuity and darkness, but it is in this very area that the light is manifested.

 

3. Jesus asks us to repent, to liberate ourselves from our own narrow mental schemes. We too can discover that the kingdom of heaven is not a distant utopia, but near at hand.

Jesus begins his preaching by saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near!” Repentance means to go beyond what one normally thinks, to open oneself to another way of conceiving things, to free oneself of one’s own narrow perspective. The kingdom of heaven is near, in contrast to our usual notions of utopia, which tend to be abstract and theoretical. In reality, the kingdom is near for it is a matter of conversion, a matter of a change of heart.

 

4. To get out of darkness and enter into the light, we must get away from our own vision of ourselves and enter into what God thinks of us and what he can do with us. Let us open ourselves to this light. This is what the word of God can do when it comes into our hearts. It offers us another key for understanding everything.

Jesus says to his disciples, “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men”. He doesn’t say, “Be good, be committed, make a big effort.” No, what is happening here is a work of God. We are often sad and in darkness, not seeing that the kingdom of heaven is near us, because we think it is up to us to save ourselves, to resolve our own problems. Instead, it is God who appears in our valley of darkness, in our Galilee of the Gentiles, in our world of confusion. He simply asks us to follow him so that we can discover what he can accomplish in us. As we see in St Peter, it is a long process of the apostle learning that it is not what he can with himself as the centre, but what the Lord can do in him. Peter is called in this Gospel, but will have to pass through failure and darkness before he learns to follow the Lord. The darkness of his betrayal will be illuminated by the forgiveness of Christ. Only then will he become a fisher of men. In the case of John and James, sons of Zebedee, to be converted, they must come out of their own framework of thinking, they must move away from the influence of possessive paternal or familial influences. When Abraham was called, he had to leave his paternal home, the zone of his original interpretation of who he was as a person. To get out of darkness and enter into the light, we must get away from our own vision of ourselves and enter into what God thinks of us and what he can do with us. Let us open ourselves to this light. This is what the word of God can do when it comes into our hearts. It offers us another key for understanding everything. Let us allow this key to unlock God’s grace, the goodness of the kingdom of heaven which is not distant but very close.

 

ALTERNATIVE HOMILY

 Sunday has been designated by Pope Francis to be the Sunday of the Word of God. Did you know that we can be enslaved or liberated by words? We are relational

 creatures and we are always fundamentally in dialogue with something. It is important that

we be in dialogue with God’s word and not with a lie! The serpent in the Garden deceived us

with his lie. This has caused us to distrust God and each other, and has led us to live lives of

 isolation and suspicion. But into this darkness, comes Jesus! The Gospel tells us that light

 begins to shine on the people who lived on the “way of the sea”. This was the commercial

route to the Mediterranean. Jesus did not meet people on top of a high mountain, but went

right into this busy region and called the first disciples. They were living in darkness in the

same way that all of life is in darkness and heading towards death and nothingness. Jesus

calls them (and us) to conversion. Conversion means to change direction and head towards

the Kingdom. So the people who lived on the way of the sea are now living on the way to the

 Kingdom of Heaven! This Sunday we are called to embrace the life-giving word of God,

change direction and allow the Kingdom to come in our lives.

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