3 Epiphany

Isa. 9:1-4
Ps. 27:1, 5-13
I Cor. 1:10-18
Matt. 4:12-23

After the arrest of John the Baptist, Jesus went to Galilee, a move which itself indicates the universal scope of his mission. The King of the Jews is likewise the King of Kings. “Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the lake, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali” (Matt. 4:12). Fulfilling ancient prophesy, Jesus made a new home in “Galilee of the Gentiles,” which is to say, he made the whole world his dwelling place. Gentiles are everywhere, and so Jesus is everywhere.

“Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is come near’” (Matt. 4:17). What can this be other than his call to us at this moment to hear him, turn to him, and cleave to him in the joy of his nearness? “As he walked along the sea of Galilee” means, at the very least, that he is walking near the places we live and work. He saw Simon and Andrew, and, moments later, James and John. He sees us too. Jesus beholds all the peoples of the earth, one person at a time. As he said to them, “Follow me,” so he speaks to us. He is present in our world, in our church, in the liturgy, in sacred reading and preaching, in supplication and singing, in sorrow and lament.

All things were made through him, and so there is nowhere that he is not. Even now, where two or three are gathered in his name, he is teaching and declaring good news, and healing diseases and infirmities. He comes to us and calls us with all the power of his grace, and by his grace we respond, and so he becomes for us “my light and my salvation,” “the strength of my life” (Ps. 27:1). He beholds us and we behold him. We seek his face, his very presence. (Ps. 27:11).

In comparison to him, we count all things as loss (Eph. 3:8). We leave our homes and livelihood and make Christ the one priority of life, for he is life itself.  To be clear, providence will not allow this leave-taking to be literal in most cases, but it will require that home and vocation and all the responsibilities, obligations, joys and sorrows associated with it be an encounter with Christ. He is near and he is calling and he is the one in whom all our works begin, continue, and end. In a remarkable way, it is precisely this “sacrifice,” which is, to be sure, the cross of Christ in our lives, which transforms daily life, family life, marital life, community life into something astoundingly sacramental.

Reviewing the call:  Jesus says repent, the kingdom is near, follow me. We leave everything, an act which is “the foolishness of the cross” to those who do not believe. But to those who have heard the call of Christ and become themselves the place where Christ is welcome, the cross becomes the power of God, for it is an invitation to lay aside the old humanity and take up a new being in Christ.

A new humanity emerges in which, through promise and hope, “we are united in the same mind and the same purpose,” we experience a profound “agreement” in which there are no divisions; for we are one new humanity in Christ. This is a gift which, in our sinfulness, we often obscure.  To state the obvious, division and bitterness exist not only in the world generally, but also in the Church. These divisions, however, do not exist in Christ’s view of us as members of one body. Christ is not divided. Christ is one and we are one in him at precisely this moment as he calls and we respond.

Look It Up:  Isa. 9:2-3

Think About It: The light and joy of Christ in you.

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