Is 9:1-4; 1Cor 1:10-13, 17; Mt 4:12-23
Al Catraz Island was the first long term Army Prison in America. It is an island surrounded by freezing waters and hazardous currents. This prison had many types of cells. The underground cells were dark dungeons. The rooms were dark. The only sustenance thrown to that darkness was a little bread and water. Several prisoners were kept in the
darkness hand cuffed. In that darkness men lost the concept of days, weeks and years. Their only companion was darkness.
In 1934 work was begun to give the military prison a new face and a new identity. So, a delegation was sent to improve the conditions of prisoners in Al Catraz Prison. There in the pitch dark underground cellars they found certain types of men who were afraid of light. When they were brought out they couldn’t stand the brightness of the sun. The light made them frantic. They wished to take refuge in darkness.
The first reading from the book of Isaiah proclaims that the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light have shone.” (Is 9:2). This has been fulfilled “When Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom.”
At His coming into the world, Jesus found it enveloped in thick darkness, the darkness of sin; all men groped in it, searching for light, for joy and for freedom. In this darkness man was not able to see the path leading to God, took for God what he himself had fashioned, looked for happiness where it could not be found and went on sinking deeper and deeper into sin. John the Baptist perceived this danger, and his message was decisive and demanding. He addressed the crowd, Brood of wipers…..Produce fruit to fit repentance. John continued his message with a threat and a promise.
Jesus took over where John the Baptist had left. Jesus gave the substance of his message in a sentence. “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” There are certain characteristics to be identified in the message of Jesus.
Jesus voice had a note of certainty. There was no doubt about his message. Jesus preached with certainties. He spoke to his listeners about the need for immediate action. The conviction that reflected in the words of Jesus captivated His listeners and silenced His enemies. So Jesus’ words pierced through the heart of men. When the Pharisees tried to attack Jesus, He told them that they were wrong. He challenged their false beliefs and meaningless customs. He taught them that the law was instituted for man and not man for law.
Our lives should be proclamation of certainties. A man cannot make others sure of that about which he himself is in doubt. There was an Unknown Rebel at the 1989 Tiananmen Square Protests. Little can be verified about the lone protester who faced-off with the tanks of the People’s Liberation Army on June 5, 1989. As the column of tanks drove down Chang’an Avenue to quell the Tiananmen Square protests, a single unarmed man in a white shirt blocked their path and continually thwarted their attempts to manoeuvre around him by stepping in their way. Eventually onlookers pulled the student back into the crowd, where he disappeared. Yet despite his anonymous, brief appearance, the media coverage of his nonviolent act resounded throughout the global community. The Unknown Rebel was listed as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.
The Apostles, saints and martyrs shared the conviction of Jesus. Their conviction transformed them into brave men who are remembered throughout history. Today, the church needs us to share the same conviction and to be heralds of Jesus’ message.
Secondly, Jesus’ voice had the note of authority. He laid down and announced a king’s command and executed a king’s decision. Jesus taught with authority. “They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, "What is this? A new teaching--with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him." – (Mark 1:27) There was no doubt in their experience that he was no ordinary teacher. They were amazed at how different his teaching was:
It is one of the sad things about us that we tend to make allowances for modern ways of thinking. Instead, we should dare to our prophetic authority to the present situation.
Thirdly, Jesus’ message came from a source beyond Himself. It was not the expression of one man’s personal opinions, but it was the voice of God transmitted through one man to the people. When Moses was sent as a mediator God assured him, “Now go, I will help you speak, and will teach you what to say.”(Ex.4:12) The same assurance was given by Jesus to His disciples too, “But when they arrest you do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say.”
The message of Jesus offered light, joy and freedom. Therefore, large crowds followed him. But, Jesus picked up a few from among them, to continue his work. In today’s Gospel Mathew gives an account of the calling of the first disciple. Jesus called the fishermen, Peter, Andrew, James and John, to be fishers of men. There is a story that the Greeks used to tell how Xenophon became Socrates’ disciples. Socrates met him in a narrow lane and barred his path with a stick. Socrates showed him certain things one after another and asked him where he could get them. Xenophon gave him correct reply. Finally Socrates asked him, “Do you know where men are made good and virtuous?” “No” said the young Xenophon. “Then, follow me and learn,” said Socrates.
God’s call, come to men from a source beyond, in extraordinary ways. Fabien was Roman layman who came into the city from his farm one day as clergy and people were preparing to elect a Pope. Eusebius, a church historian, says a dove flew in and settled on the head of Fabien. Seeing this, Fabien was chosen the pope, unanimously. He accepted call, led the church for 14 years and died a martyr’s death during the persecution of Decius in AD 250.
Jesus called the fishermen, Peter, Andrew, James and John, to make them good and virtuous. God called Fabien to lead the Church, and they accepted the call. Today, Jesus calls us too, to follow Him, and learn to be good and virtuous. When we accept His invitation the message of Jesus will reach us with the message of light, joy and freedom.