3rd Sunday in OT / A / 2020
Msgr. Patrick S. Brennan
It’s the beginning of a new year, and our Gospel today takes us to the very beginning of the public ministry of Jesus. It’s back to the basics—an annual reminder of the call we have received, the discipleship we share, and the Kingdom we proclaim.
The Gospels tells us that the public ministry of Jesus began when John was arrested—as John himself said, "I must decrease, and he must increase."
And what is the reaction of Jesus when he hears that John has been arrested? Does he flee, fearing the same fate? No. He heads straight for Galilee—into the darkness, to a land overshadowed by death. "Land of Zebulun and land O Naphtali, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light." Jesus is the great light shining in the darkness of Galilee. Like John, Jesus preaches "repentance," but there is something new: the Kingdom: "Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand."
The Kingdom of Heaven. The central message of Jesus—that the Kingdom has come. And what is the Kingdom? Perhaps that question is better phrased in this way: "Who is the Kingdom?" In the person of Jesus, God has broken into the world, shares our humanity, and dwells among us.
As the First Letter of John says so beautifully, "What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked upon and touched with our hands"—this is Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, the Kingdom come into the world for our salvation.
The first word preached by Jesus is "repent"—in the Greek, metanoia. The word means "a new beginning." To "turn around." To move in a new direction, even to wake up. When Jesus spoke this word, it was like a thunderclap, a bright light shining in the darkness. We are invited to conversion. We are invited to follow Jesus.
Jesus calls his first disciples along the Sea of Galilee. The great movement of Christianity that would extend "to the ends of the earth" begins with two people, Peter and his brother Andrew: "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men."
Notice that Jesus doesn’t say, "Hey, I’ve got a great idea!" Or, "Listen to my new philosophy!" Or, "Say, I’ve got a really great Start Up!" No. Christianity is first and foremost a relationship—a relationship with Jesus Christ.
One commentator, in trying to explain the quick responses of the Peter and Andrew, said it was like falling in love. I like that, because it emphasizes something new, something exciting, and sudden—like love! But most importantly, it emphasizes a relationship. When we fall in love, we drop everything, and we desire nothing more than the beloved. That is what Christianity is all about.
But our love affair with the Lord is not just an inward journey—a "me and Jesus" kind of thing. When we join ourselves to Christ, we join ourselves to his mission: I will make you fishers of men and women.
In other words, we become that same light shining in the darkness.
We preach the same message of the Kingdom.
We give ourselves in service in the same way that Jesus did.
So, a new year and new beginnings. The Gospel calls us to discipleship. May we answer that call—and welcome the Kingdom.