On the Gospel of Matthew 4:12-23
3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
In last week’s Gospel we saw John the Baptist, (the last great prophet before Jesus), who belonged to a religious group that initiated new members through the rite of immersion in water, baptism. The rite used by John was symbolic of moral conversion, through repentance, confession of sins and a change of heart – a state required for receiving God’s salvation.
In this week’s Gospel passage, Matthew presents Jesus’ public preaching ministry; “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is near.’’ We Dominicans, can identify with this message of repentance since it is for the very same message we were founded by our Holy Father St Dominic. We preach the Good News that salvation is for all! Although Jesus was without sin while being fully human, his willingness to be baptized is a sign of how fully he embraced His humanity. In today’s world everything has a cost attached to it. The earliest peoples used the barter system, the business of trading one thing for another. In more recent times, hire purchase plans, credit cards, loans, etc.are the preferred mode of exchange. It may seem as though God’s invitation to his disciples whom he called to “follow me and I will make you fishers of men’’ is a consequential one. The very things they depended on for life and security seemed to be the approved method of payment for their salvation. Moreover, the theme of repentance is one of sacramental importance to all Christians and those wanting to follow Christ. What does it mean to ‘follow’ Jesus? There is a reason Jesus wants us to follow him and not remain in the depth of darkness of our sinful lives. John the Baptist previously went before to prepare us for the coming of the Lord. Now that the Lord is here, He Himself, “an ordinary man” like you and me, is beckoning to us to turn from our sinful ways, to ‘leave our nets’ and come follow him. Salvation is ours!
One may ask, what is the repentance? Why should I repent when I am only human and am bound to make the same old mistakes again? To attempt to answer these very basic yet important questions, I dare to say that repentance is simply saying ‘sorry’ and meaning it. Central to any apology is being genuinely remorseful for one’s sins. This is the first step toward inner conversion, the same conversion mentioned before. Yes it is true that our sins have already been forgiven and the ‘price for our sins’ has already been paid for upon the saving Cross. However, our own dignity as people made in the image and likeness of God is an important aspect of repentance. If we had no dignity, no sense that we have caused harm to ourselves and to others and even to our Creator, what’s the use in saying sorry? What would it mean? So to be motivated to turn towards the God who calls us out of darkness to live in his light, we must be guided by the Spirit and by God’s will which enables us as followers of Jesus to go before God recognizing our humanness and need for constant renewal and forgiveness.
Every opportunity we Catholics have to celebrate the sacrament of penance is another humble act of demonstrating our sorrow for our sinfulness. In admitting our sin, and asking for forgiveness, we repent. This very Sacrament has another side. We repent, we humble ourselves before God and we are confident enough of God’s love that we can come to Him, and know that our sins are forgiven. God gives us the grace to make a good confession and not sin again. I use the word celebrate because it is a joyful occasion when we are reunited with God and no longer alienated by our wrongs.
Jesus saw the men in their boat mending their nets, he called to them and immediately they left the boat and followed him. Immediately they turned away. Today my friends, there maybe areas of our human fabric which may need mending. We hear Jesus calling you and me, to come and follow him. Just as we are, may we acknowledge before the Master that we are truly human, sinful and sorrowful, but willing to leave our nets and follow Jesus. Now that we have heard the message: Repent for the Kingdom of heaven has come near, may we open our hearts to receive the invitation to follow Christ so that he could use us to draw others unto him and continue his mission in the salvation of souls.
When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles — the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
– Matthew 4:12-23