Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, January 27, 2008

Isaiah 8: 23 - 9:3

1 Corinthians 1: 10- 13, 17

Matthew 4: 12-23

Explanatory Note :
"The Kingdom of God." The term kingdom appears 162 times in the New Testament, of which 121 times are in the Synoptics.

The expression "Kingdom of Heaven" is found 104 times in the Gospels, most often in Matthew (51). The notion of reign, kingdom is rooted in the history of Israel : it is the experience of God as the Sovereign who rules the Universe and accompanies his people. In Jesus, God intrvened for his people in a definitive way. In him, the reign was manifest as Good News. But Jesus does not work without taking men as associates. He asks us to pray the Father to send workers for the harvest. He sends the ones he has chosen to take care of the crowds that wander about without a shepherd They will have the same compassion as Jesus for the multitudes.

The negative event concerning John the Baptist causes Jesus to act : He withdraws into Galilee. Galilee in the North is a region that is scorned by the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judah because of the quantity of pagans in the population who are strongly influenced by foreigners. Through the ministry of Jesus, Matthew witnesses the liberation that was announced by the prophet Isaiah : a light rising over the people who walk in darkness. The sovereign proximity of Jesus is felt in this land of struggle ... as it is felt in our hearts where the forces of good and evil, of doubt and of trust, of good are in combat.

The scenes concerning the vocation of the first disciples are constructed according to a schema in the Old Testament as we see in the narrative of Elishas vocation (1 Kings 19, 19-21). The schema is composed of four elements; the meeting of the one calling and the one who will be called; the narrative gives the circumstances. Then comes the delay (Elisha bids his father farewell). Then the abandoning of ones old life and obedience to a new master. The synoptic tradition uses the same structure but omits the theme of delay.

In Jesus meeting with his future disciples, the use of the word "to see" shows that it is Jesus who takes the initiative. The verb indicates the election. The men to whom he addresses himself are neither prepared nor forewarned. They go about their daily business. The context does not point to any particular attraction to Jesus nor to knowledge of his message. Besides, Peter and Andrew, along with James and John belong to the little people of Galilee who are looked down on by the religious lite.

The authority of Jesus is such that his word places a person among his disciples without taking into account his abilities. To follow him means a total attachment to Jesus, giving him unlimited obedience, listening to him and serving him, sharing his destiny. This new situation created by Jesus is that of service : to be witnesses before all of the Kingdom that Jesus inaugurates.

The response of those called is characterized by promptness. Peter and Andrew leave their nets, James and John leave their boat and their father. Their obedience is immediate and absolute. On one hand, it is a radical break with their former condition in life : profession, family, home, all belong to the past. On the other hand, this obedience introduces the one called to a new life characterized by an unconditional and exclusive adherence to the person of Christ. They will share his future fate. Can we respond with the same promptness to Jesus call ?

Lord, you call us to follow you in the service of the Kingdom. Let us respond to the call, without divisions or a spirit of partisanship, with the desire to live and work in perfect harmony of thought and feeling.

—Sophie Ramond, R.A.