Holy Spirit be with us as we read. Let us open our ears and heart to the living Word of God.
Reading I: Isaiah 8:23-9:3 The reading from Isaiah is set in the prophetic tense speaking to exiles from their homeland who were being urged to be faithful to God. This is a passage of encouragement and was messianic in nature.
Reading II: 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17 The reading from Corinthians is from the early church period. Saint Paul is writing and urging Christians to make unity in Christ and fidelity to the message of Christ’s death and resurrection a priority over personal affiliation or affection for various leaders.
Gospel: Matthew 4:12-23 This passage shares Jesus reaction to hearing of the arrest of his cousin John. He withdraws to the territory mentioned in the Old Testament reading and begins his ministry. The compiler of the Gospel draws a parallel from the passage in Isaiah, and expresses the early Christian understanding of Jesus’ presence in this territory as the messianic fulfillment of the message of hope expressed by Isaiah.
In some ways I find it easier to read the readings with the Gospel in the middle on a day like today when it flows chronologically. Try reading Isaiah, Matthew, then Corinthians.
A quick background on some names in these passages may be helpful.
Naphtali: He was the 2nd son born to the patriarch Jacob’s 2nd wife Rachel. When Naphtali was born his mother (not his birth mother but his legal mother Rachel) said “I have wrestled strenuously with my sister, and I have prevailed.” Naphtali means “wrestling.”
Zebulun: He was the 6th son born to the patriarch Jacob’s 1st wife, Leah. When he was born his mother said “God has endowed me with a good gift; now my husband will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons.” Zebulun means “dwelling.”
Land of Naphtali and Zebulun: Territories in the land of Israel which were assigned to the descendants of those sons of Jacob approximately 500 years after the death of Naphtali and Zebulun, at the time of the conquest of the land of Israel led by Joshua (mid-1400’s B.C.). The territories of Naphtali and Zebulun were to the north and west of the Sea of Galilee in the country of Israel. A description of the borders as drawn at the initial time of conquest can be found for Zebulun in the book of Joshua, chapter 19: 10-16, and for Naphtali Joshua 19:32-39. They were in the Northern end of the country in general, and had a Gentile presence in Jesus' time.
Capernaum, a city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, situated in the land assigned to the tribe of Naphtali. Jesus began his ministry there.
Day of Midian: A reference to a victory in battle over the Midianites by a man named Gideon. That story can be found in Judges chapters 6-8.
Cephas: Another name for Saint Peter. It is the Aramaic form of the name Peter, a.k.a. Simon.
Apollos: A teacher in the early church.
Peter and Andrew: Brothers called by Jesus.
James and John: Sons of Zebedee, brothers called by Jesus.
Here are some observations I have made in reading these passages.
You may find other connections or insights as you read.
I see sets.
Degraded to glorified
Gloom to joy
Distress to rejoicing
Jordan to the sea
Tribal boundaries/spiritual divisions
Zebedee and Jacob as fathers of son sets
Zebulun and Naphtali
As land demeaned
As land redeemed
Peter and Andrew
James and John
Paul and Apollos
Chloe and Chloe's people
Peter and Paul
Paul and the Corinthians
I see change.
Darkness to light
Sadness to making merry
Burden to freedom
Conquest to withdrawal
Fishermen to apostles
Sectarian to non sectarian
And back again
I see connections
Between wrestling in families
Wresting between nations
Wrestling between sects
Between dwelling in exile
Dwelling at home
Dwelling at oddsDwelling at peace
I see hope.
For deliverance by God.
For fidelity in Christ.
For sending apostles.
For mending nets.
Dear Holy Spirit
Thank you for the time and gift of being able to read and meditate on the Holy Scriptures. Help us as Christians and as humans to be more united, more open to thinking with the same mind and with the same purpose in Christ, following his example of being the light of the good news of eternal life and goodness in places where there is darkness and gloom.
Peace in Christ,