Radical Reversal

As a gesture of reverence towards St. John the Baptist, Christ begins His ministry only after the demise of John. Interestingly, the opening words of His ministry are; “Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Matt. 4:17) the very same words with which John began his ministry (Matt. 3:2). So today’s Lection (Matt. 4: 12-22) conveys us that Christ is inaugurating a new subversive Kingdom; 𝐚 𝐊𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐝𝐨𝐦 𝐨𝐟, 𝐛𝐲 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐩𝐨𝐨𝐫. This is evidenced by His selection of those poor fishermen who were mending their fishing nets for they lacked enough money to buy new ones.

Christ being the son of Mary the “Daughter of Poor” – a common identification of Mary in the West Syriac Liturgical Tradition – personally knows the pain of poverty. He is aware that poverty is the consequence of a skewed socio-economic system. People aren’t poor on their own accord but impoverished by the greedy and powerful. Thus Christ and His mother Mary firmly believed that in order to lift up the lowly, the powerful must be dethroned (Luke 1:52). The former is contingent upon the latter.

Christ by willing to take birth from a poor woman had already begun dethroning the powerful. He continues this in His public ministry by urging people to boycott structures that enslave and impoverish them just as He inspired those fishermen to leave their nets. There have been studies that state; “Fishing had become state-regulated for the benefit of the urban elite. Local elite profited from both the sales, the production, the processing and the transportation of the fish….So in asking them to turn away from their nets, Christ is not asking them only to leave a traditional livelihood; he is asking them to leave a livelihood that has become corrupted and distorted by an increasingly international economic system that did not support them.”

Finally, through the initial calling of four disciples (Simon, Andrew, James and John) representing the four corners of the earth, Christ is widening our premise of accountability and ministry. The cost of discipleship necessitates that we be willing to abandon not just our wealth but also our kith and kin for the sake of Christ (Matt. 4:22). As St. John Chrysostom remarks; “There are three things which we must leave who would come to Christ; carnal actions, which are signified in the fishing nets; worldly substance, in the ship; parents, which are signified in their father.”

+ In Christ,
Dayroyo Fr. Basil

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