1) OPENING PRAYER
Lord, let the light of Your glory shine within us,
and lead us through the darkness of this world
to the radiant joy of our eternal home.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) GOSPEL READING - MATTHEW 4:12-17, 23-25
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." 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. His fame spread to all of Syria, and they brought to him all who were sick with various diseases and racked with pain, those who were possessed, lunatics, and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan followed him.
• Some brief information on the objective of the Gospel of Matthew: The Gospel of Matthew was written during the second half of the first century in order to encourage the small and fragile community of converted Jews who lived in the region of Galilee and Syria. They suffered persecution and threats on the part of the Jewish brothers because they had accepted Jesus as the Messiah and for having received the pagans. In order to strengthen them in their faith, the Gospel of Matthew insists on saying that Jesus is really the Messiah and that the salvation which Jesus comes to bring is not only for the Jews, but for all of humanity. At the beginning of his Gospel, in the genealogy, Matthew already indicates this universal vocation of Jesus, because being “son of Abraham” (Mt 1:1, 17) He will be a source of blessings for all the nations of the world” (cf. Gen 12:3). In the visit of the Magi, who came from the East, he suggests once again that salvation is addressed to the pagans (Mt 2:1-12). In the text of today’s Gospel, he shows that the light which shines in the “Galilee of the Gentiles” shines also outside the frontiers of Israel, in the Decapolis and beyond the Jordan (Mt 4:12-25). Further on, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus will say that the vocation of the Christian community is that of being “salt of the earth and light of the world” (Mt 5:13-14) and He asks people to love their enemies (Mt 5:43-48). Jesus is the servant of God who announces the rights of the nations (Mt 12:18). Helped by the Canaanite woman, Jesus Himself overcomes the barriers of race (Mt 15:21-28). He also overcomes the laws of purity which prevented the Gospel from being opened to the pagans (Mt 15:1-20). And finally, when Jesus sends His disciples to all nations, the universality of salvation is even clearer (Mt 28:19-20). In the same way, the communities are called to open themselves to all, without excluding anyone, because all are called to live as sons and daughters of God.
• Today’s Gospel describes how this universal mission is an initiative. The news of the imprisonment of John the Baptist impels Jesus to begin His preaching. John had said, “Repent, because the Kingdom of God is at hand!” (Mt 3:2). This was the reason why he was imprisoned by Herod. When Jesus knew that John had been imprisoned, He returned to Galilee proclaiming the same message: “Repent, because the Kingdom of God is at hand!” (Mt 4:17). In other words, from the beginning, the preaching of the Gospel involved risks, but Jesus did not allow Himself to be frightened. In this way, Matthew encourages the communities which were running the same risks of persecution. He quotes from Isaiah: “The people who lived in darkness have seen a great light!” Like Jesus, the communities are also called to be “the light of nations!”
• Jesus began the announcement of the Good News by going through the whole of Galilee. He does not stop, waiting for the people to arrive, but He goes to the people. He Himself participates in the meetings, and in the synagogues, to announce His message. The people bring the sick and the possessed, and Jesus accepts all and cures them. This service to the sick forms part of the Good News and reveals to the people the presence of the Kingdom.
• Thus, the fame of Jesus is spread throughout all the region, going beyond the frontier of Galilee, penetrates Judah, reaches Jerusalem, goes beyond the Jordan and reaches Syria and the Decapolis. In this region there are also some communities for whom Matthew was writing his Gospel. Now they know that in spite of all the difficulties and the risks, there is already the light which shines in the darkness.
4) PERSONAL QUESTIONS
• Are you also light for others?
• Today many close themselves up in the Catholic religion. How can we live the universality of salvation?
• “Repent” is a common phrase heard in Christian discussions. What does this really mean? Take some time to examine the meaning of “repent” and its forms, and what it means personally.
5) CONCLUDING PRAYER
I will proclaim the decree of Yahweh:
He said to me, "You are My son,
today have I fathered you." (Ps 2:7)