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Friday, 30 December 2016 15:14

Shine your light

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Sr Veronica Lawson2 rsm150Reflection on the Gospel- Third Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A, 22 January 2017 (Matthew 4:12-23)

We are all invited to turn our lives around and to live out the pattern of Jesus’ life, writes Mercy Sister Veronica Lawson.

Most of the gospel readings this year will be from the gospel of Matthew. As with any story, it is probably best to read it from beginning to end over a few days, attending to all the elements in the story. Elaine Wainwright’s new eco-rhetorical commentary on Matthew’s gospel invites us to read with attention to habitat as well as to the human and the holy. The invitation to us as readers is to enter into the drama with all its elements. We need to realise that what we bring to the text will inform our reading of the text. What we notice will depend on our own social and cultural contexts and on our capacity to bring our particular interpretive stance into dialogue with the worlds that inhabit the text. While the main character in the story is Jesus, there are other characters and character groups, including other-than-human characters.

In the passage selected for today, the Matthean Jesus makes his appearance as a great light that has arisen in Galilee of the Gentiles. He is light for a people who have lived in darkness and the shadow of death and oppression. In the context of Roman imperial rule, Jesus offers hope of an alternative reign. We might focus on the gift of light. Without an appreciation of light itself we cannot really understand this image.

Jesus invites his hearers to expand their horizons, to “repent” for the empire or kin-dom “of the heavens” has come near. He then calls four fishermen to follow him, to join him on his mission of proclaiming the empire or reign “of the heavens”. The verb “to follow” is an invitation to live out in their lives/our lives the pattern of Jesus’ life. They “immediately” leave their boat and their father and follow him. Later in the story we find they still have their boat, an indication that, at some levels, the story is to be read symbolically. At times we need to distance ourselves from family expectations for the sake of the gospel. At times we have to decentre our material possessions even while we affirm the goodness of their materiality and their significance for the work of the mission.

One might get the impression that the alternative community that Jesus forms around him is all male. This impression is dispelled a few verses later when we learn that “great crowds followed him” (4:25). In Matthew 18, there is specific mention of children and, towards the end of the gospel, we find that women have “followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him’” (27:55). There is a far more extended group around Jesus than today’s reading might suggest. Women, men, and children, we are all invited to turn our lives around and to live out in our lives the pattern of Jesus’ life.

 

For permission to reprint weekly gospel reflections by Mercy Sister Veronica Lawson, please contact:
Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea (ISMAPNG) - South B Community Office
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