Excerpt from Take Time for Him: Simple, Soulful Gospel Meditations to Ignite the Busy Person’s Spiritual Life Get your own papercopy from Amazon!
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3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Gospel of Matthew 12:12-23
John the Baptist prepared the way for Christ both by announcing His immanent coming, and by calling people to conversion. John’s extreme asceticism 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; 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 commenced by preaching the same message as John, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven 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? Put simply, it refers to God’s rule over the hearts of its citizens/children, and the peace and security they gain in return through union with Him. It’s a kingdom established through the free and reciprocal gift of love between God and those who respond. 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 adoption into 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 went to Galilee to begin gathering up God’s scattered and lost sheep. The havoc of disunity caused by human sin, would be undone through union in Christ. He rebuilt God’s people by building His Church. He first called two sets of brothers who had spent their days fishing, caring for their family, and awaiting the Messiah. They, like Christ, obeyed God 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 or 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 fishermen. 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.
- Ask the Lord for a spirit of repentance. Invite the Holy Spirit to show you what, or who, comes between you and
- Reflect on the Christ’s call “Come Follow ”
- 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?
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- Begin each day this week by saying, “Yes Lord, I will follow You.” Repeat it throughout the day.
Additional Recommendations for Spiritual Reading:
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Ignatius Catholic Bible: Revised Standard Version, Burgundy, Zipper Duradera (this is the bible I use for my personal prayer. I love it)
Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean Pierre de Caussade (a spiritual classic, my absolute favorite)
The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
Interior Freedom by Jacques Philippe
The Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen
The Way of Perfection: Study Edition [includes Full Text of St. Teresa of Avila’s Work, Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD]
The C. S. Lewis Signature Classics: An Anthology of 8 C. S. Lewis Titles: Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, Miracles, The Great Divorce, The … The Abolition of Man, and The Four Loves