homily – January 27

Matthew 4:12-23

In today’s gospel Matthew tells of how Jesus began His public life. From the very beginning it was troubled. Herod had beheaded John. Nazareth was not a safe place so Jesus went beyond the Jordan to Capernaum and made his home there. As usual Matthew sees in this decision a fulfillment of the words of Isaiah about people who walked in darkness seeing the great light.

Matthew’s description of how Jesus called Peter and Andrew, John and James seems a bit unreal. Can’t you just hear Peter’s wife saying, “What do you mean you’re going to join a wandering rabbi? You get back in that fishing boat; you have a family to feed.” I can imagine Zebedee saying the same things to John and Andrew, ‘there’s no way you’re taking off and leaving me alone, get back to mending these nets.’ These were all practical people living with practical people. These men weren’t with Jesus 24/7.

But it was from Capernaum Jesus began his long journey to Jerusalem. He travelled from town to town, city to city teaching in synagogues, proclaiming the good news of God’s love for all people, calling people back to God, giving them the encouraging news God’s kingdom was near, even in their midst.

We’ve heard many times before about the expectations of the people about a liberating Messiah who would expel the occupying Romans and establish a new kingdom. They would be ruled by their own. We’ve heard of how disappointed many people were when they realized this was not what Jesus was about. As Jesus told Pilate, “my kingdom is not of this world”. I’m not about power and force and domination. In the end the Roman soldiers made a joke of this kingdom by crowning Jesus with thorns, dressing him in mock purple and offering Him an empty reed as His scepter.

What is this kingdom of God? We pray every day ‘thy kingdom come’ but what are we praying for? I think the kingdom Christ came to establish is best described in the preface of the Mass of Christ the King. It is to be an eternal and universal kingdom, a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.

Looking at the world around us, beginning with our own city and country we can see how far removed we are from such a kingdom. We see the ravages of useless wars, we hear of millions upon millions of uprooted peoples. We know that poverty, injustice and exploitation are part and parcel of people’s lives.

Remember the song, ‘let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me’? We can apply that same thought to our prayer, ‘thy kingdom come’. When we pray the Our Father and pray those words, could we mean to say – thy kingdom come to that part of me which has yet to be redeemed – thy kingdom come to that part of my life, my relationships, my family life, my work situation, my social involvement – which is lacking in justice, love and peace. Could we mean, Thy kingdom come to that part of my relationship with God, which hesitates or fears the holiness and grace to which God calls me. Could we mean thy kingdom come to anything in my life which holds me back following Christ with the same willingness and generosity of Andrew and Peter, James and John?

As we continue to celebrate this Mass we pray for ourselves and for each other that every time we pray the Our Father we will have the willingness to mean what we say when we pray, ‘thy kingdom come”. May the truth and life, the holiness and grace, the justice love and peace of thy kingdom come – and let it begin with me.