Opening the Word: Jesus fulfills the desire of the nations


The strangeness of the call of the first apostles by Jesus confronts any reader of the Gospel. Walking along the Sea of Galilee, Jesus sees Simon (who will be renamed Peter) and Andrew. He calls out to them, inviting them to leave behind their trade, their families and to become fishers of men.

What did the first apostles recognize in Jesus? It’s not clear from the text that they had heard about his baptism at the hands of John. To them, Jesus was likely an unknown person who interrupted their workaday world, inviting them to become disciples in a yet unclarified mission.

And yet there must have been something about Jesus that answered the deepest desires of the human heart. The Gospel of Matthew references this desire implicitly by raising a prophecy in Isaiah. Isaiah’s prophecy refers to the glorification of a seaward route, one apart from the lands of Naphtali and Zebulun.

While the geography matters in explaining why Jesus left behind Nazareth, going to the Sea of Galilee instead of Jerusalem, the prophecy is not just about identifying where God will fulfill his promise.

The prophecy addresses the very desire of the human heart for redemption. Those who have dwelt in darkness, in a world of sorrow, will dwell in a land of light. Those who suffer under the burden of sickness and death will be healed.

This prophecy in Isaiah, while historical, also refers to the entire human condition. Are not each of us born into a kind of darkness, having to discern the great meaning that will guide our lives? Do we not experience the shadows of suffering, the desolation of death, the temptation to meander into meaninglessness?

We are creatures of desire, who long for a direction, a telos to our life that leads to ultimate fulfillment.

And this is what the disciples heard in the voice of Jesus. They heard in the invitation to become fishers of men an answer to the deepest desires of their hearts. They heard the voice of Jesus, the desire of nations, the desire of every man and every woman.

We, like the disciples, can still hear this voice through the Church. Those of us who are born in the United States are tempted to think about the Church as a gathering of like-minded folks. We are those who like Jesus, and therefore, we get together on Sundays and other times to celebrate this fact.

But as Paul proclaims to us, this isn’t the Church. The Church is not the voice of Apollo, it’s not the voice of Paul. It’s not the voice of this bishop, this priest, this lay evangelist who travels the country. It is the voice of Christ, calling out to every man and woman this day, “Follow me.”

The Church, thus, each year contemplates the wondrous call of the disciples so that she can learn something more about the pedagogy of Jesus, Our Lord’s way of answering the desires of the nations.

The great temptation of the Church is not to rely on the voice of Jesus, on the genius of the Word made flesh, but to rely on our own slogans, our own political projects, our own strategic vision for evangelization.

When we do this, should we be surprised that men and women today hear in the voice of the Church not the answer to their deepest desires, but slick marketing, politics in religious dress, and business-speak?

Human desire does not respond to this, at least in the long term. It responds only to the voice of Christ, “Follow me.”

Jan. 26 – Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Is 8:23–9:3
Ps 27:1, 4, 13-14
1 Cor 1:10-13, 17
Mt 4:12-23

This article comes to you from OSV Newsweekly (Our Sunday Visitor) courtesy of your parish or diocese.


Catholic News & Perspective

Provides information on the Church, the nation and the world from OSV, America's most popular and trusted national Catholic news source


Opening the Word: This Lent, let Christ use you to build the temple

Friday, February 21, 2020
By: Timothy P. O'Malley In one week, the revelries of Fat Tuesday, the celebrations of Carnival, the donuts and king cakes and pancakes will be a... Read More

With church shootings on the rise, what are Catholic parishes doing to keep the faithful safe?

Wednesday, February 19, 2020
By: Brian Fraga The people in the pews next to Chris Pereira probably have no idea he’s armed with a loaded weapon. The handgun he carries at... Read More

Vatican homeless shelter continues long history of the Church’s charitable works

Monday, February 17, 2020
By: Msgr. Owen F. Campion Talk about a breath of fresh air. NPR spent some minutes reporting that Pope Francis had turned a one-time palace near... Read More

Opening the Word: The Law's horizon

Friday, February 14, 2020
By: Timothy P. O'Malley Many residents of the United States distrust law. Yes, Americans appreciate basic traffic laws, legal prescriptions... Read More

Understanding the liturgy of the domestic church

Wednesday, February 12, 2020
By: Greg Popcak Have you ever thought of your family life as a liturgy? The liturgy of domestic church life. Does that seem odd? It... Read More

Many lessons were taught at the first desegregated high school in the South

Monday, February 10, 2020
By: Msgr. Owen F. Campion Catholic Schools Week, observed not very long ago, caused me to think about my 12 years of Catholic education, in... Read More

Opening the Word: The light of the world

Friday, February 7, 2020
By: Timothy P. O'Malley Our Gospels proclaim the blessedness of the poor, the hungry and the thirsty. The Gospels demand radical poverty, total... Read More

Sisters in solidarity: Praying for an end to abortion

Wednesday, February 5, 2020
By: Deirdre A. McQuade Planned Parenthood clinics perform over a third of all abortions in the United States. They are known to schedule even more... Read More

A culture caught up in the ingesting of darkness

Monday, February 3, 2020
By: Kathryn Jean Lopez I had an intense March for Life experience, as I typically do. People from all sorts of stages of my life seem to converge... Read More

Opening the Word: The materiality of salvation

Friday, January 31, 2020
By: Timothy P. O'Malley On interstates, it’s normal to encounter billboards that announce to harried motorists, “Jesus saves.”... Read More

Online Giving

Online Giving

Secure and Convenient Donate now!