Let our feet make us true messengers of God

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 8:23-9:3

First the Lord degraded the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali; but in the end he has glorified the seaward road, the land west of the Jordan, the District of the Gentiles. Anguish has taken wing, dispelled is darkness: for there is no gloom where but now there was distress. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing, as they rejoice before you as at the harvest, as people make merry when dividing spoils. For the yoke that burdened them, the pole on their shoulder, and the rod of their taskmaster you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.

1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17

I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose. For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers and sisters, by Chloe's people, that there are rivalries among you. I mean that each of you is saying, "I belong to Paul," or "I belong to Apollos," 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 the wisdom of human eloquence, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.

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.

Matthew’s commencement of Jesus’ public ministry came startlingly with a withdrawal instead of an advancement. Retiring from Judea to Galilee, Jesus launched His messianic mission in the least expected place. “Galilee of the Gentiles” (Is 8:23), despised by Jesus’ contemporaries in Jerusalem (because of the Galileans’ impure race and suspect orthodoxy), was destined to witness the most important events of His public life. Jesus’ presence there had indeed fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah (First Reading). Being the Light, He had brought a new dawn of hope to pagans and sinners that God’s salvation is for all people and comes impartially to everyone.

Besides fulfillment of God’s promise, Jesus’ move reminds us of His peripatetic character. From His birth in Bethlehem, His flight to Egypt, His childhood settlement in Nazareth to the beginning of His Galilean ministry, Matthew’s Jesus was always on the move, an itinerant preacher and a constant wanderer with no den or nest and “nowhere to lay His head” (Mt 8:20). He did not opt for the comforts and security of the familiar but rather embraced God’s will to reach out to those who were in need of His word wherever they might be. By coming to them, Jesus became one of them as their neighbour and as their friend. Though Jesus’ message was a replica of John the Baptist’s, yet instead of blunt and tough rebuke, His brought light and hope to both sinners and pagans.

The prophecy of Isaiah also has a special bearing for us today in our own age. We are in the lands of darkness, marked by hardened consciences, grave injustices and the culture of death. Our societies often overflow with things that are perverse and ugly, deceptive and depressing. But in the midst of all these grievances, let us not forget the strength of God’s word—-“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Ps 119:105) and let us not underestimate its power—-”For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down………..so shall my word be…..it shall not return to me void but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it” (Is 55:10-11). In our present more mobile and diverse culture, do we, as disciples of Christ, have the courage to be the mouthpiece of God’s word and give witness to the truths? Do we dare to join in the work of bringing light to others? Are we willing to continue Jesus’ mission to illumine others, to be His voice, arms and legs here on earth?

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation….” ( Is 52:7). As St Paul said to the Romans, “How can they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? (Rom 10: 14). Let us carry Jesus’ presence with us, let us be the light in the lands of darkness and let us imitate Jesus in reaching out to those who are in need of His word wherever they may be. Let “[our] feet swift as those of hinds” (Hab 3:19) and make us true messengers of God.

Posted: January 22, 2017

May Tam

May Tam, Bachelor of Social Science (University of Hong Kong), Master of Theological Studies (University of Toronto)

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