Matthew 4:12-23
Freedom of God
by Rev. Joseph M. Rampino
Reprinted be permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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Matthew wrote to show that Christ was the
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.

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 Napthtali, 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 the 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."

This week's Gospel seems to provide us a simple message indeed.  Chris calls his first disciples, foretelling that they will become "fishers of men."  Simon and Andrew, James and John, hear this call, and "immediately (leave) their boat and their father" to follow Jesus.  Are we not to reflect on how promptly we follow the call of God in our own lives?  Is this not a straightforward occasion to think about vocations on a grand scale, such as to priesthood or religious life, or on a small scale, in the context of our daily lives?  Certainly it is, but if we stop with this obvious reflection, we miss he power of the moment, and something of the personality of Jesus himself.

We should not miss the fact that this first call happens "when Jesus heard that John (the Baptist) had been arrested."  In the background of this direct call to discipleship and ministry lies the specter of the world's rejection.  All John had done, we should recall, was give witness to the fact that King Herod's marriage was unlawful.  This simple witness to a basic natural truth had earned John imprisonment and then a sad and seemingly pointless death.  Such volatility among the powerful might suggest that this was a dangerous time to go out and preach a message that might challenge the world's logic.  Yet, here is Christ, telling the crowds to "repent and believe in the Gospel."  and calling these first four men to follow him, then go and do likewise.  He knows that he is claiming the lives of these men, three of whom will die as martyrs, but he calls them nonetheless to share his mission and join him in witness to the Father.

This is hardly the first moment we see such incredible boldness in Jesus, and we could well say that this freedom and audacity mark his whole personality and ministry.  He does not follow human wisdom.  He does not wait for what the world would consider an opportune moment, nor does he fear the reprisals that will surely follow his actions.  He does as the Father wills, on the Father's terms, and on the Father's time.

The prophecy quoted in this passage gives further context to this mighty freedom of Jesus.  We read: "The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death, light has arisen."  Christ is that light breaking into a land of darkness and death.  He shows himself precisely because the world is violent, volatile, fearful, lost, and dead, not because the crowds are prepared immediately to accept him and convert.  He can step forward without fear because he himself is the light from light.  He knows where he has come from and where he is going, and so is totally assured, even in the face of all that is to come.  He knows that his passion and death lie at the other end of the road down which he starts today, but confident in the Father's love, in the resurrection, and his glorious victory, he steps forward anyway.  As John's Gospel tells us: "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

As baptized Christians and members of Christ's body, members of Jesus himself, we share his relationship with the Father, and every one of his reasons for confidence in the face of danger.  If we wish to follow Jesus our head, then we too must step forward with hope and courage, first into the trials of this life, then into the glory of the Father's own life.