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Gospel for Sunday, January 22: Matthew 4: 12-25

III Sunday A

12Having learned in the meantime that John had been arrested, Jesus withdrew to Galilee 13and, leaving Nazareth, he came to live in Capernaum, near the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14so that what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, on the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; 16the people immersed in darkness saw a great light; upon those who dwelt in the earth and shadow of death a light has risen. 17From then on, Jesus began to preach and say: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” 18As he walked along the Sea of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon, called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20And they immediately left their nets and followed him. 21Going further, he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and his brother John, who in the boat together with Zebedee, their father, were mending the nets; and he called them. 22And they immediately left the boat and their father and followed him. 23Jesus went about throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the good news of the kingdom and curing all sorts of diseases and infirmities among the people. 24His fame spread throughout Syria and so all the sick, tormented by various illnesses and pains, demoniacs, epileptics and paralytics, were brought to him; and he healed them. 25And great crowds began to follow him from Galilee, from the Decapolis, from Jerusalem, from Judea and from beyond the Jordan.

Mt 4: 12-25

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (

Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.

We are in the moment of transition between the ministry of the Baptist and that of Jesus. John the Baptist is “handed over” (paredòke): “being handed over” (paradìdonai) means no longer being masters of oneself, it is accepting that others dominate us, it is become servants, slaves. Even Jesus, like the Baptist, will be “delivered”, like the Servant of IHWH (Is 53,10.12), the prophets (Jer 26), the righteous (Dan 7,24-27). The whole life of Jesus is a “surrender”: in fact he is “surrendered” to the High Priests (Mk 14,10-11), to Pilate (Mk 15,1-10), to the soldiers (Mk 15,15), and in ‘Eucharist his body is “delivered” (Lk 22,19). It is the Church, it is all of us, it is me, who every day practically refuse to follow the example of Jesus and the Baptist. We all want to be the first and not the last; we all want to “fulfill” our life and certainly not lose it; we all want to decide about ourselves, and certainly not that others have control over us; we all want honors and shun insults and persecution; we all prefer a life of comfort rather than sacrifice; we all prefer to enjoy than suffer, to command than to obey, to receive than to give, to be served rather than serve. Nobody wants to be “handed over”, to become “a man for others”, a possession of others, which everyone can use; no one wants to “empty” himself for others, lose himself for them, let himself be consumed, eaten by others, become “the last and the servant of all” (Mk 9,35), like Jesus the Christ: yet this is what we are called to follow the Lord!

Jesus “withdrew (verb anachoréo) to Galilee” (Mt 4.13), to the area of Capernaum, which becomes Jesus’ second homeland, where he will remain until chapter 18.

Capernaum, in the so-called “Galilee of the Gentiles”, is a place halfway between Israel and the pagans. The Naftali area is very populous, very fertile. Josephus says that the smallest of the towns had at least fifteen thousand inhabitants. Salvation is for Israel and for the pagans, and therefore the most suitable place for the first announcement of the Gospel is precisely this area, inhabited by Jews and pagans. Thus the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which Matthew quotes, profoundly modifying the text: “The people who lived in darkness saw a great light” (Is 8.23-9.1).

This region, in which Jacob’s two sons, Zebulon and Naphtali, who are expressly named, lived, suffered severe oppression by the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III in 733 BC. C., so much so that it was considered an “area of oppression”. This is why Isaiah prophesies his liberation.

In this region Jesus begins to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom, which is for everyone, Jews and pagans: Matthew, who writes for the Jews, immediately wants to clarify to them that salvation will not only be for the People of Israel, but that it will be offered to all nations. Furthermore, the choice to begin in this territory underlines that the Gospel is an announcement of redemption.

Matthew remarks: “so that what was said might be fulfilled” (Mt 4:14), as he will do eleven other times. The Word of God is always fulfilled. The Word of God is realized with certainty. As Isaiah had prophesied: “For just as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return without having watered the earth, without making it fruitful and making it sprout, so that it gives seed to the sower and bread to eat, so will it be with the word that came out of the my mouth: it will not return to me without effect, without having done what I desire and without having accomplished what I sent it to do” (Is 55,10-11).

“Convert (Metanoeìte)!” (Mt 4.17): converting means changing the way of thinking (meta – nous, turning the brain), of feeling, of acting, changing the direction of life. And why convert? Because the Kingdom of heaven is near. The verb “is near” (ègghiken) can also be translated “has arrived”. That is, the whole Kingdom of God, which is light, freedom, justice, brotherhood, joy is not something to wait for who knows when. It has arrived, it is here. All you have to do is convert, turn around and live it.

For this reason it follows the story of two calls, those of the first four disciples. The story is modeled on the calls of the prophets (1 Kings 19,19-21) and is intended to be paradigmatic for every believer. Jesus passes along the Sea of Galilee and first of all “sees”, with his gaze of discernment, “two brothers, Simon, called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting their nets into the sea” (Mt 4:18): and he says them: “Come after me (opíso mou), I will make you fishers of men” (Mt 4:19).

To this word the two brothers respond “immediately” (Mt 4.22), promptly, abandoning their profession to follow Jesus. Then there is the story of the vocation of the other pair of brothers, James and John, sons of Zebedee. “Same dynamic, with the addition of the clarification that the two brothers not only leave the boat, but also their father; there is therefore a renunciation of profession and family, there is a real break between what one was and what one becomes by following Jesus. The response of the person called (no self-candidacy for discipleship!) is unconditional and without extensions, yesterday as today” (E. Bianchi).

Two notes:

a) First: Jesus is the only Rabbi of whom it is known, in the history of Judaism, that he chose his disciples. As still today, it was always the disciples who chose a Rabbi, a teacher. To be clear, I don’t choose whether to go to scientific high school, classical high school, or surveyor or various professional institutes… No!! Here is the Principal who calls me and says: “Come!”.

b) Second: the Word of Christ is the Word of God, and therefore it always comes true. This whole section is right under this sign. The dominant theme is the authoritative Word of Jesus, powerful in teaching as well as in operating.

Our passage is concluded by a “summary” which summarizes all of Jesus’ activity (Mt 4.23-25): the itinerant preaching in Galilee, therefore also open to pagans, the teaching in the Jewish synagogues, and his intense thaumaturgical activity: in Jesus the Kingdom has come close to us with all its richness of healing, liberation and salvation.

Happy Mercy to all!

Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at


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