‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand’
Third Sunday of the Year A
In this reading for the 21st/22nd January Matthew tells us that Jesus brings light not only to Israel but to the nations too, to all those who ‘live in darkness’. Fr Adrian Graffy reflects.
12 Hearing that John had been arrested, Jesus went back to Galilee, 13 and leaving Nazareth he went and settled in Capernaum, a lakeside town on the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali. 14 In this way the prophecy of Isaiah was to be fulfilled: 15 ‘Land of Zebulun! Land of Naphtali! Way of the sea on the far side of Jordan, Galilee of the nations! 16 The people that lived in darkness has seen a great light; on those who dwell in the land and shadow of death a light has dawned.’
17 From that moment Jesus began his preaching with the message, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’
18 As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew; they were making a cast in the lake with their net, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.’ 20 And they left their nets at once and followed him.
21 Going on from there he saw another pair of brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they were in their boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 At once, leaving the boat and their father, they followed him.
23 He went round the whole of Galilee teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness among the people.
Other readings: Isaiah 8:23-9:3 Psalm 26 (27) 1 Corinthians 1:10-13,17
Today we begin our reading of the story of the ministry of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, which will take us until the end of the liturgical year. We hear the evangelist’s summary of Jesus’ message: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’ Matthew precedes this with a quotation from the Hebrew Scriptures, which he declares to be fulfilled. Jesus brings light not only to Israel but to the nations too, to all those who ‘live in darkness’.
From the very start he calls disciples. They leave everything at once to follow Jesus. The message of Jesus and his very personality invite them to take this risk. They accompanied him as he ‘went round the whole of Galilee’. This is the first location for the preaching of the good news and for the healings of Jesus, the place where the gospel is warmly welcomed. We will hear more about these activities in the weeks to come.
Have I allowed Jesus to transform the darkness of my life?
Am I willing to leave everything and follow him?
We pray for a renewed openness to hearing the gospel.
Rev Dr Adrian Graffy is a member of the Vatican Commission that takes a lead in Bible scholarship, interpretation and promotion in the Catholic Church.
Rev Dr Graffy said of his five-year appointment by Pope Francis in 2014: “It is an honour to be nominated by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. I feel humbled and very much look forward to being of service to His Holiness and the Church.”
He added: “A great deal has been achieved in England and Wales in recent years by many co-workers to advance Biblical scholarship and the provision of easy-to-use resources. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis for their efforts to promote understanding and love of the Bible, particularly through the publication of the teaching documents, The Gift of Scripture and the study guide to Verbum Domini, The Word of the Lord.”
Rev Dr Graffy received his doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1983. He taught for over 20 years in St John’s Seminary in Wonersh, and is Chair of the National Scripture Working Group, which is an instrument of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Fr Graffy is a past director of Brentwood’s Commission for Evangelisation and Formation and parish priest of Christ the Eternal High Priest in Gidea Park, Essex. Among his publications are the Gospel of Mark and the Letter to the Romans (Alive Publishing).
Listen to BBC Essex interview with Fr Adrian Graffy