Christ’s Kingdom Come

by Angela Lambert

 Raphael,_The_Miraculous_Draught_of_Fishes_(1515)

January 22nd, 2017; Third Sunday of Ordinary Time

 Gospel Matthew 4:12-23 NA

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.” As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him. 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.

Meditation Reflection:

John the Baptist prepared the way for Christ by proclaiming His coming, and calling to conversion those awaiting a savior.  John’s extreme ascetic life, illuminated consciences to common attachments which hinder people from receiving the Lord.  His lonely, austere, desert living, provides a sharp contrast to our often-inordinate desire for luxury, status, and concern for keeping up with the Jones’.  His fast of locusts and honey, casts light onto our indulgence in food and drink; and his camel-hair clothing convicts our consciences of secret vanity.  Lastly, his rejection of fame and power set an example of true Christian discipleship.  He rejected the title of Messiah for himself and insistently pointed to Jesus as the Christ.  He spoke the truth to peasants, religious leaders, and even political leaders, despite the risk of arrest and even death.  When the Lord finally came, he gracefully stepped to the side, saying “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (Jn 3:30).

Matthew situates the beginning of Jesus’ ministry with the waning of John’s.  Jesus had been baptized and spent 40 days in the desert fasting, praying, and being tempted. John had just been arrested and Jesus, His preparation finished, now began His work.  He commences by preaching the same message as John, “Repent, for the kingdom is at hand.”  Only this time, the kingdom is not coming, but rather has come in the Person of Jesus Christ.

What is the kingdom of God?  Although its meaning has great depth and connections, put simply, it refers to God’s rule over our hearts and the peace of union with Him.  To accept the rule of God, we must first reject the rule of other monarchs.  Thus, repentance is a necessary first step, in which we acknowledge the sins and desires that we have allowed to rule us, and we ask for God to be our liberator.  The Lord’s kingdom is a monarchy, but one that governs free individuals.  The Lord does not annex land through force, but He does liberate people who are enslaved and, through the merits and mercy of His Son, grant them citizenship.  Moreover, this citizenship is more akin to being an adopted member of a loving family than a mere nation-state.

Imagine Christ’s joy as He could finally roll up His sleeves and begin preaching the Gospel, healing the wounded, and most importantly – forgiving sins.  Since the Fall of Adam and Eve, God had patiently waited for the time when we would be ready to receive Him and He could heal all our wounds and strengthen us with His grace.

Jesus goes to Galilee to begin gathering up God’s scattered and lost sheep.  The havoc of disunity caused by human sin, becomes undone through union in Christ.  He rebuilds God’s people by building His Church.  He first calls two sets of brothers who have spent their days fishing, caring for their family, and awaiting the Messiah.  They, like Christ, obeyed the Lord in humble tasks of everyday life until He called them forth.  When asked to follow Him, they immediately left the security of their routines and their community, to say Yes to the Lord and His will.

We can learn from this encounter how to prepare for, and respond to, the coming of the kingdom of God in our own lives.  We can begin by answering the call of John the Baptist to repent.  We can ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us our sins and our blind spots.  I can say from experience, He will.  Next, we watch and wait.  We live our daily lives open and receptive to God’s will.  St. Thomas taught that “grace builds on nature.”  This means that being a Christian doesn’t make us less ourselves and just robots following commands.  Rather, grace makes us the best version of ourselves.  It actually makes us more ourselves and raises our natural state in life to a super-natural level.  Peter, Andrew, James, and John were all fisherman.  In the kingdom of God, they become fishers of men.

The apostles model Christian discipleship, which is simply receptivity to the Lord in our daily lives.  It means saying “yes”, and following wherever He leads. True peace, justice, and happiness come through Christ alone.  Only He can free us from our worst enemy – our own sins, fears, weakness, and pride.  Only He can provide security.  When we experience the gift of being His disciples, we will understand John the Baptist’s passionate zeal for pointing others to the Lord as well.

Following Christ can look very ordinary on some days, and on others it can completely surprise you.  Whatever might be holding you back when Christ says to you, “Come and see,” let it go.  Drop your nets and set out after Him.

Consider:

  • Ask the Lord for a spirit of repentance.  Invite the Holy Spirit to show you what, or who, comes between you and God.
  • Reflect on the Christ’s call “Come Follow Me.”
  • How has God called you to be faithful in your everyday life? In your family, at your job, in your community?
  • How has grace “built” on your nature. How has encountering Christ made you a better version of yourself?  Where might Christ still want to work in your life?
  • Christ cured “EVERY disease and illness”. There is nothing He can’t conquer for His kingdom. What plagues you? Pray for healing in accord with His will.
  • Spend a few moments in joy, expressing gratitude for the freedom you have found in Christ’s love.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Begin each day this week by saying, “Yes Lord, I will follow You.”  Repeat it throughout the day and in every circumstance.

 

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017

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