Scripture Notebook by Doris Hayes
Isaiah 8:23-9:3 I Cor 1:10-13, 17
Mt 4:12-23 TOUGH fishermen drop their nets and follow, two of them leaving their father Zebedee in the boat. Very soon huge crowds gather to hear.
The News must have been good, the personality of Jesus magnetic, the message compelling conviction.
If we are to recapture the joy and excitement of those first bearers of the word we have to consider what the words, "Repeat, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand", meant for them.
The people of God had sung joyfully of the future reign of God and of the salvation it would bring.
The prophet Isaiah spoke of the day when those who dwelt in darkness would see a great light. There would be rejoicing at the dawning of that day.
The kingdom which Jesus proclaims is not a realm with boundaries. Rather he announces God's reign, God's sovereignty. It will be established through his merciful intervention in human history. Israel had confidently expected that for centuries. Jesus announces the realisation of those hopes.
Nor must we be misled by Matthew's speaking of the "Kingdom of Heaven" into thinking Jesus spoke of some celestial realm above the clouds. He comes to establish God's reign on earth. Matthew's Gospel, reflecting the usage in the Jewish
Christian community, substitutes "of heaven" for "of God", avoiding the use of his name out of reverence.
A momentous event in history is declared. A new age has begun. God's reign demands an adequate response.
The word "repent" does not fully convey the meaning of the Greek word in the original Gospel. That invites a change of direction, a change of mind and heart, a transformation of the whole of life. Attitudes and dispositions must be radically reformed if the light of God is truly to dispel the darkness in human lives.
The reign of God clearly implies a people, a community who accept his sovereignty and live according to his way: hence the call of the first disciples immediately after the announcement that the promises of God were now fulfilled in Jesus and that with Jesus the kingdom is "close at hand".
Throughout the Gospel there is an awareness that the Kingdom is here but not yet fully here. The assurance is that it will triumph in the end. Human history is not ultimately meaningless for all will be well in the end. The light will finally dispel the darkness.
Paul's admonitions to the Church at Corinth, a community which had received the Good News with enthusiasm, show that the Church on earth is continually in need of renewal and reform, as the father of Vatican II reminded US.
That call to repentance, to a continual renewal in mind and heart, has to be heard in every age, if the light of God's reign is to shine in the darkness of our world.