"Jesus' invitation was directed not to their heads but to their hearts"
Sunday Homily for January 27, 2008
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (3A)
By Father James Gilhooley
Sunday Readings: Matthew 4:12-23
Four year old Jill asked, "God is bigger then us and lives in us, right?" Her mom agreed. Jill blurted out, "If God is bigger than us and lives in us, shouldn't He show through?" Jill is a promising theologian.
Jesus possessed a sophisticated Early Warning System. Word reached him that John the Baptist had been jailed. He knew if He wanted to avoid arrest, He must flee John's country. His instincts pointed Him to Galilee. Even blindfolded, He knew that territory well. Nobody would find Him there. Besides, the time had come for Jesus to begin His preaching about His Father's Kingdom. He arrived in the north after a forced march.
He checked in with His mother and had home-cooked meals. After His forty day fast, Mary must have been terrified at the looks of Him. He sold His tools at a yard sale. He would not be needing them again. He put the funds in the Nazareth Savings Bank for His mom and got a Visa credit card.
Jesus was about to begin His second career. It would last but three years. Yet, the world still reels from that decision.
Then He set up His headquarters not in Nazareth but in Capernaum. That was a gutsy call. Like many seaports, Capernaum was seedy. Its citizens were among the most violent in Galilee. Many would steal the eyes out of your head and tell you that you were born blind. Citizens there would prefer to be called former citizens of Capernaum.
But it had one big plus. The town was sitting on a heavily traveled road. Merchants from Syria and Phoenicia in the north would motel overnight in the town as they headed south. Those coming out of Egypt and other African countries heading for the north country would do likewise. Jesus would never want for a ready audience. These people would listen to fresh ideas. They would carry His story to whatever countries their business took them. That is the reason we non-Palestinians are Christians today.
Also from Capernaum He could move out into all of the province of Galilee. It was not a large area. It measured about fifty miles from bottom to top and perhaps twenty-five miles from west to east. Jesus was no stranger to walking. He was in marvelous condition. In addition, the plentiful winds on the Sea of Galilee would carry Him in any direction by sailboat taxi.
He had to pick up a team first before He began His serious work. Thus His famous invitation to the brothers Simon and Andrew and to the brothers James and John.
These men were no spiritual midgets. Jesus had first met them down in John the Baptist's country. Like Him, they had researched the Baptizer and liked what they had seen and heard. They were conscious of the spirit portion of their own persons.
Nor was Jesus an unknown to them. They had traveled in His company. No doubt they had heard Him preach often. They may even have witnessed miracles. They had become as charmed of Jesus as we are.
When they accepted His invitation to sign on, they were bold men. They were trading in a middle-class living for a precarious one. They were, after all, commercial fishermen. They owned their own boats. When was the last time you could afford to put fresh lobster, crabmeat, and shrimp on your table?
Jesus was offering them not peace but the sword. And an executioner's two-edged sword awaited three of them a short way down the road.
Jesus' invitation was directed not to their heads but to their hearts. Had it been the other way around, they might not have enlisted as charter members of a start up enterprise. Very few of us reason our way into the Church. Most of us become hypnotized with Jesus. It is not His clever words that move us. It is His very person. He was and remains a complete original. One genuine contact and one is addicted for life. (William Barclay)
Once Jesus had His team, He began His work in earnest. Do reflect that today's Gospel tells us Jesus "cured the people of every disease and illness." Count them and you will discover that nine of the ten miracles in Matthew's Gospel concern healings.
He was concerned both getting these people to heaven and in helping them today. His deeds, said an observer, became His message. So it must be with us.
There is no dearth of work. According to the United Nations, 800 million people and rising are malnourished in the world.
This week let God show through you. Do not disappoint Jill,who opened this homily, and above all don't disappoint yourself.