Week of January 26, 2020

Today’s Gospel presents Jesus in a time like this:  John The Baptist had been arrested and Jesus was about to begin his own ministry.

Matthew tells us that when Jesus learned of John’s arrest, he took up residence in the northern town of Capernaum, a territory occupied by farmers and fishers.  Matthew calls it the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, reminding his readers that, obscure as it might seem, it was a part of the promised land, God’s territory.  Jesus wasn’t seeking a hideout there, but what Pope Francis might call a prudent starting place.

Last October, at the opening of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon, Pope Francis urged the bishops to be prudent.  Some people might have welcomed that word as a reprieve from urgent action about the problems of our day, as a sign that nobody should expect to be shaken up by what the bishops would say.

Then Francis went on to describe prudence as an unsettling virtue.  He said that prudence is not indecisive or defensive, but rather a virtue of discernment.  Prudence opens us to the newness of what God’s Spirit is doing.  Prudence is a daring virtue because it continually puts our viewpoints and our comfort at risk.

We might say that prudence is the prophetic virtue Jesus exhibited at the beginning of his ministry.  Prudence is audacious and can be disturbing.

Jesus exhibited prudence at the beginning of his ministry.  Jesus’ prophetic prudence led him to believe that the time was ripe, that God was on the verge of bringing about a change in everything.  Jesus believed that the God of his Jewish ancestors was weaving together the circumstances necessary for people to experience possibilities for a life they had never known before.

Jesus called those possibilities the “kingdom of heaven,” and would spend the rest of his life showing others what it was like and telling stories about it.  Each Gospel teaches that the kingdom or reign of heaven is characterized by human well-being and a quality of relationships that mirrors the mutual love of the Trinity.

Jesus invited fishermen to leave their nets and boats to follow him. They dropped everything at the invitation, but from that moment Jesus had to cajole, tutor and sometimes denounce their behavior in his efforts to transform them into disciples who could carry forth his mission.  Their transformation was a process.  (Taken from Sr. Mary McGlone’s reflection in the National Catholic Reporter)

As we are called to be disciples we realize we are in a process that calls us to Christian prudence that leads to action on behalf of the kingdom of heaven and for our world.

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