Sunday, January 23, 2011

Matthew 4:12–23, Isaiah 1:9­­–4

The Matthew 4 and Isaiah 9 readings assigned for this third Sunday of Epiphany each begin with geographic references that are easily overlooked. Zebulun and Naphtali are more than Galilean locations. Both words signaled to eighth-century BCE hearers what Vietnam, Abu Ghraib and Guan­tánamo Bay signal to our ears—the hellishness of war and the darkness engulfing those who live in its aftermath. But Zebulun and Naph­tali are also cited as "crossroads of the nations, where people sitting out their lives in the dark saw a huge light" (The Message). Jesus chooses this background, one weighted with historical meaning, as the setting from which to carry out his Galilean ministry. With astonishing boldness he announces that he is the One in whom Isaiah's prophecy is at last fulfilled, and who calls all to repent and receive the kingdom of heaven now at hand.


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