When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles- the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea-for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.
Now, we are officially in the tradition Ordinary Time. Last week was an extra week for us to linger on the celebration of the spirit of Christmas. Today’s Gospel is about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. This moment is a significant moment of Jesus’ life. It is not only a milestone in his life but also the key moment of the salvation of mankind in God’s action.
The beginning of every significant moment is marked with something that is not very pleasant happened. For the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, the moment is marked with the arrest of John the Baptist. It is at this moment that Jesus decides that it is the time to come out from the obscurity, from background to the centre stage. Do we know when it is ready to move or simply to put stay? Further, Jesus quietly prepared himself before his public ministry while John the Baptist was busy baptizing people with water in River Jordan. He did simply sit there idly to wait for his moment to move. When he moves, he is already ready and well prepared. And above all, he has first obtained the approval of his Father at his baptism in River Jordan.
The first part of today’s Gospel from verses 12 to 16: “When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: ‘Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles- the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned’”, we can see that Jesus’ ministry is not a new one in the sense that he has to reinvent the wheel, but a ministry to fulfill the promise of God long time age. It is a fulfillment of ancient prophecy. But in this tradition, there many new things take place. First of all, it is the completion of John the Baptist’s mission as we mentioned here earlier. It signifies the end of the prophetic era, an era that is based on the words of God spoken through prophets. It marks the beginning of God’s action to save us.
At the beginning of the new era, everything must be new as well. Jesus left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea to fulfill the prophecy. For Jesus, his only concern to fulfill God’s promise without any attachment, even the place he calls home, Nazareth, and his family. He settles down in Galilee, where is a frontier of the Jewish people that they rub shoulders with the Gentiles. With this first move, Jesus indicates that new things can happen in old tradition, not only the fulfilment of God’s salvation, but the salvation is also for all peoples, in addition to the Jews. Today, can we allow new things to take place in the long tradition of our faith and the Holy Church?
The key verse of today’s Gospel is: “From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’” This is the summary of Jesus’ teaching. It tells us when, what and how we respond to God’s salvation for us.
About the timing and when we respond to God’s salvation, Jesus tells us that it has come near. It is now, not next minute, not tomorrow, next week, next month or next year, or when something was achieved. It is NOW. How do we know it is now? We must be sensitive to God’s calling to us? Like Our Lady in the Annunciation, we respond positively to God’s invitation. Such moment can take place in both good time and bad time.
About the “what” of God’s salvation, or the “goal/content” of God’s salvation, Jesus tells us that it is the kingdom of heaven. So, the salvation is not about the political ideals or ideology promoted by human beings but “kingdom of God”. It is the plan of God for the world: harmony and abundance depicted in the Book of Genesis before the Fall in human relationship with themselves, with the nature and with God, the Creator.
How we respond to God’s salvation? It is simple. Jesus asks us to repent. He invites us to think the unthinkable and not to remain status quo in our faith and in our lives. In other words, don’t be satisfied with what we have or angry with not have but to leave them behind and move forward. Let’s us all pray for such grace. Amen.