January 22, 2023: Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel: (Mt 4:12-23)
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 of 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.
“When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew.” Withdrew. The word connotes a pulling back, a retreat, a time of regrouping, of reckoning, a decision point. John’s arrest sent a clear signal. The message of God’s kindom would not be tolerated. The message that the powerful would be thrown down and the poor lifted up would not be preached. The messenger would be severely punished – even put to death.
No wonder Jesus withdrew. He had a decision to make. Go forward or cease and desist. Risk everything or risk nothing. As I reflected on the decision Jesus faced, one of my grandmother’s oft repeated encouragements surfaced and resurfaced and resurfaced. I kept hearing her say: In for a penny. In for a pound. Jesus had already given so much of himself. He had cured, preached, challenged, comforted so many. For good and for bad, his reputation preceded him. He was already “in for a penny” when he learned of John’s arrest. Would he, could he continue on a path leading to the same fate as John? We know his decision. “In for a pound” and so much more.
American theologian Harvey Cox once wrote: “not to decide is to decide.” Does that insight resonate with me? Can I remember an instance in my life when I couldn’t or wouldn’t make a decision? How did that work out for me? Can I remember an instance when I resisted the temptation to cop out and made a difficult and life-changing decision? How did that work out for me?