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01.22. 2023 Third Sunday in Ordinary Time


Christ Pantocrator

Monastery of the Theotokos Pammakaristos

Istanbul

Turkey


Christ Pantocrator portrays Jesus as the ruler and sustainer of the whole world.

The Monastery of the Theotokos Pammakaristos (Mother of God the All-Blessed), later on Fethiye Mosque, was located on the fifth hill of Constantinople, south-east of Chora and Blachernai Churches.

It is a Middle Byzantine Church, founded during the Komnenian era (from 1081 to about 1185), with late Byzantine additions, notable for its extensively decorated parekklesion (side chapel found in Byzantine architecture).

It was converted into a Mosque around 1587 during the reign of Murad III. It was called Fethiye (“Conquest”) Mosque, in commemoration of the Ottoman conquest of Georgia.

It was extensively restored, following damage by a fire in 1640.

It was again restored around 1845 during the reign of Sultan Abdulmecid.

Further restorations took place in 1938-1940, during which time the parekklesion came under Museum Authority.

Byzantine Institute in Istanbul began to uncover the mosaics of the parekklesion in 1950. The parekklesion is now a museum.



Lectio

Matthew 4: 12-23

12“Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15‘Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned’. 17From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near’. 18As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is 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 fish for people’. 20Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. 23Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people”.



Meditatio

Introduction to the Gospel of Matthew

This year we are in Cycle A of the Lectionary, so the Sunday Gospels will be mostly from Saint Matthew.


The Gospel of Matthew was written during the Second Half of the First Century in order to encourage the small Christian Community who had converted from Judaism and who lived in the region of Galilee and Syria. They suffered persecution and threats on the part of their Jewish brothers because they had accepted Jesus as the Messiah and for having received the pagans among them.


In order to strengthen them in their faith, the Gospel of Matthew insists on saying that Jesus is really the Messiah and that the salvation which Jesus comes to bring is not only for the Jews, but for all of humanity:


· At the beginning of his Gospel, in the Genealogy, Matthew already indicates the inclusion of all peoples into the kingdom of God because being “Son of Abraham”[1], Jesus will be a source of blessings for all the nations of the world”[2] (cf. Gen 12:3).

· In the visit of the Magi, who came from the East, Matthew suggests once again that salvation is addressed to the pagans[3].

· In the text of today’s Gospel, Matthew shows that the light which shines in the “Galilee of the Gentiles” shines also outside the frontiers of Israel, in the Decapolis and beyond the Jordan[4].

· Further on, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus will say that the vocation of the Christian Community is that of being “salt of the earth and light of the world”[5], and He asks people to love their enemies[6].

· Jesus is the Servant of God who announces the rights of the nations[7].

· Helped by the Canaanite woman, Jesus Himself overcomes the barriers of race[8].

· He also overcomes the Laws of Purity which prevented the Gospel from being opened to the pagans[9].

· And finally, when Jesus sends His Disciples to all nations[10].

In the same way, the Christian Community is called to open the doors to all, without excluding anyone, because all are called to live as daughters and sons of God.


The Beginning of the Ministry of Jesus

Jesus begins his ministry after overcoming the Temptations in the desert, and as soon as He received the news that John has been arrested.


Although the Greek term used can be translated as “withdrawing” into Galilee, the move of Jesus was less a retreat and more a journey to the heart of difficulties: He moves into the territory of the ruler of Galilee, Herod Antipas, the one who had John arrested.


From the beginning, the preaching of the Gospel involved risks, but Jesus did not allow Himself to be frightened. In this way, Matthew encourages his Community which was running the risk of persecution. Like Jesus, the Community is also called to be “the light of nations!”[11]


Capernaum, where Jesus made his home, was a town of about one thousand people. Its inhabitants relied on farming and fishing to live on. It was located on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. This region had historically belonged to the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali, but in the First Century it was truly called “Galilee of the Gentiles”[12]. It was a territory conquered by Rome and ruled by a Roman puppet whom few Jews regarded as authentically Jewish: Herod Antipas, infamous for his brutality and for his intolerance of any who threatened his claims to power. Into this context of danger, darkness and death comes Jesus to proclaim deliverance and light and life.


The message proclaimed by Jesus is identical to John’s: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near[13]. Though the content is the same, the difference is that Jesus is the embodiment of the message: In his preaching and in his ministry, light has dawned and the Reign of God has already arrived.


Jesus calls people to repent. The Greek verb “repent” (metanoeo), a verb that means “turn around”. Repentance in Biblical thought involves change: change direction, change of behaviour, change of life.


The Call of the First Disciples

The next two scenes illustrate how dramatically lives can change when Jesus appears. In the first scene Matthew highlights the call of Jesus to a new duty. Without comments or questions, Peter and Andrew abandoned the tools of their trade and followed him. The second emphasizes the invitation to the New Community of Jesus: James and John immediately leave both the boat and their father, who is mentioned three times in the passage. The call of Jesus takes priority over family commitments, a startling idea in an era when family connections were a primary source both of identity and of honour, and when the responsibility to care for one’s parents was rooted both in cultural custom and in Biblical Law.


Jesus calls his Disciples to a new way of life in the Reign of God. Discipleship means getting behind Jesus and going wherever He leads. For these First Disciples it will be a difficult road, and despite their initial obedience to the call of Jesus, they will often fail both to understand and to obey him. Jesus will not give up on them even after they have failed him during his passion and death on the Cross. He will call them to repent, to turn around and go back to the place where it all began: here in Galilee. They will fail, but afterwards they will be called to follow once again. From these first scenes by the Sea of Galilee through the rest of their lives, Jesus calls his Disciples to live in hope.


Conclusion

In the final verse, Jesus himself begins to enact the Reign of God. In his teaching, in his preaching, and in his ministry of healing, He announces and reveals the dawning of God on a dark world, the triumph of God over the powers of evil and death.


Oratio

“Lord God,

You want us to live our faith

not so much as a set of rules and practices

but as a relationship from person to person

with You and with our people.


Keep our hearts turned to You,

that we may live what we believe

and that we may express our love for You

in terms of service to those around us, as Jesus did.


Let the light of Your glory shine within us,

and lead us through the darkness of this world

to the radiant joy of our eternal home. Amen”.


Contemplatio

o According to Matthew, when Jesus settles in Galilee, He becomes a ‘light' for the people of those Regions through his teaching and healing. Is Jesus the light enlightening my daily living?


o Jesus calls us to change. With Jesus, I allow aspects of my way of living that are in need of change to come to light. I ask for the help I need.


o May we too experience a deep desire for conversion and also experience the healing power of Jesus in our lives, so that we may become agents to heal and restore others.


o Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee, a busy fishing port and trading centre, where duties were collected for the Roman colonisers by tax collectors like Matthew/Levi. Here Jesus begins his ministry in earnest. I listen and watch as He proclaims the Good News and heals every kind of sickness. He attracts big crowds from all parts. He is a young man (aged 32) in a hurry, so much to do, so little time.


o I grow in my desire to bring the light and love of Christ to my world, to my family, to my work place, to my Faith Community.


o Jesus is willing and able to heal. I pray for those in need. I acknowledge my own neediness and humbly ask for healing.

 

[1] Matthew 1: 1, 17 [2] Genesis 12: 3: “I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed”. [3] Matthew 2: 1-12 [4] Matthew 4: 12-25 [5] Matthew 5: 13-14 [6] Matthew 5: 43-48 [7] Matthew 12: 18: “Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles”. [8] Matthew 15: 21-28 [9] Matthew 15: 1-20 [10] Matthew 28: 19-20 [11] “The people who lived in darkness have seen a great light!” [12] Isaiah 9: 1 [13] Matthew 3: 2

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