07 January. Saturday after Epiphany

1st Reading: 1 John 3:22–4:6

Distinguishing the spirit of truth from the spirit of error

Beloved, we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming; and now it is already in the world. Little children, you are from God, and have conquered them; for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and whoever is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

Gospel: Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25

Jesus went about the country villages, teaching and healing

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.”

From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” And he went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.


Those who sat in darkness

It is often said that Matthew presents Jesus as the new Moses, guiding us like Israel’s great lawgiver and shaping the New Covenant with an inner, even more demanding code of conduct than the Old. While the parallel of Jesus with Moses features in Matthew’s composition, even more important is today’s message of a salvation going way beyond the confines of Abraham’s descendants. Matthew sees great significance in Jesus’ move to Capernaum, on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. It’s at the heart of what he calls “Galilee of the Gentiles” and foretells how all nations will see great light through Jesus – that is, they will be called into God’s own family and be saved.

He goes on to show Jesus teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and sickness among the people. It was his concern with healing people, enhancing the lives of the marginalised, that drew such crowds to him. The dynamic that drove his ministry and urged him to travel the country on foot, making himself available to all kinds of outsiders, was love. Yes, he calls on people to “repent” – to reconsider their ambitions, priorities and lifestyle – but it is in order that they may have the fullness of life. Therefore Matthew can sum up the impact of all Jesus’ activities in the lovely phrase: “the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light!”

Bringer of Light

Jesus announces the kingdom of heaven as being close at hand and shows this good news in action by healing those who were broken in mind, body and spirit. St. Matthew gives a very positive picture of great light and life. There was something so attractive about Jesus and his message that, according to Matthew, people gathered to him from a very large geographical area, Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judaea and Transjordania. The person of Jesus and the message he proclaims is as attractive today as it was when he began his ministry in Galilee. His person and his message is as much good news today as it was then. Jesus is as much God’s gift to us today as he was two thousand years ago for the people of Galilee. He is just as much a light in our darkness now as he was then. We need to keep alive that sense of the attractiveness of Jesus, the realization that our faith is always a response to good news. It is good to remind ourselves of this basic truth about our faith as we face into the year that beckons for all of us.

Saint Raymond of Penafort, priest

Raymond (1185-1275) from near Barcelona was a Dominican friar and canon lawyer, honoured as the father or organised canon law. He served for a time as master general of the Dominicans and at his request Thomas Aquinas wrote the Summa Contra Gentiles.

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