1 John 3:22-4:6
Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25
How quickly the church moves from the birth of a baby to the adult Jesus. The Gospel concludes today with Jesus’ reputation spreading beyond Galilee, all over Syria and into Judea. Jesus’ fame develops from his work. Matthew describes him as healing all who are sick with various diseases, pain, paralyzed, and even possessed. It doesn’t matter what culture you are in, or what century you are in, everybody likes free healthcare!
Who does Jesus heal? He has the ability to restore to wholeness all of those who in some way shape or form were denied wholeness. He does not do personal favors for people for popularity. Nor does he do magic tricks. He restores to order that which suffers from lack of order. He makes right that which is "not quite right". Thus, Jesus’ action is an act of righteousness. Why is this important? Because the expectations of the Messiah indicate he is to be the righteous one. As this light has come into the world, Jesus displays he is the righteous one through his deeds.
But the beginning of today’s Gospel is completely different. Jesus hears that John has been arrested. What does Jesus do? Matthew says he withdraws. This seems to be much more of an emotional or human reaction. The one person who understood Jesus better than anyone else in this world was his cousin John. So when John gets arrested, it seems natural for Jesus to take some time to retreat, to reevaluate his mission, to listen again to the voice of his father. And the natural progression after stepping back and listening, is to step forward into the reality of the situation which lays before us. Each of us does this daily. And so we see Jesus stepping back into what he is called to do. He exercises his Ministry of righteousness.
I’m fascinated by his initial teaching. He does not start with highly eloquent sermons. When Jesus begins to preach, Matthew has Jesus teaching very a simple and basic message, "Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand." Who does this sound like? Is it not the voice of his cousin John?
The beauty of this Gospel reflects both the humanness of Jesus as he begins to understand that faithfulness to his ministry will have repercussions in the political arena all the way to the king. In this understanding he faces this reality and steps forward to begin living the title of whom he has been called— the Son of Righteousness.
As you reflect back on your Advent and Christmas experiences, how are you different because the Sun of Righteousness has brought light to your life?
Fr. David Colhour, C.P. is on the staff at Christ the King Passionist Retreat Center, Citrus Heights, California.