Mt 1:1-16, 18-23
This is the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in the book of Isaiah, the prophet, “I am sending my messenger ahead of you, to prepare your way. Let the people hear the voice calling in the desert: Prepare the way of the Lord, level his paths.” So John began to baptize in the desert; he preached a baptism of repentance, for the forgiveness of sins. All Judea and all the people from the city of Jerusalem went out to John to confess their sins, and to be baptized by him in the river Jordan.
John was clothed in camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and honey. He preached to the people, saying, “After me comes one who is more powerful than I am; I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you in the Holy Spirit.”
At that time, Jesus came from Nazareth, a town of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And the moment he came up out of the water, heaven opened before him, and he saw the Spirit coming down on him like a dove. And these words were heard from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved, the One I have chosen.”
Then the Spirit drove him into the desert. Jesus stayed in the desert forty days and was tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, but angels ministered to him.
After John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee and began preaching the Good News of God. He said, “The time has come; the kingdom of God is at hand. Change your ways and believe the Good News.”
As Jesus was walking along the shore of Lake Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.
At once, they abandoned their nets and followed him. Jesus went a little farther on, and saw James and John, the sons of Zebedee; they were in their boat mending their nets. Immediately, Jesus called them and they followed him, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men.
They went into the town of Capernaum and Jesus taught in the synagogue on the Sabbath day. The people were astonished at the way he taught, for he spoke as one having authority, and not like the teachers of the law.
It happened that, a man with an evil spirit was in their synagogue.
Today’s first reading begins with these words of the apostle Paul: “In everything God works for the good of those who love him.” Now there are two ways one can understand the words “God works.” One of these is wrong, the other is right.
The wrong one goes like this. God in heaven is like a Super Puppeteer and we, humans, are his puppets. And from heaven God pulls the strings, manipulating people and events. As Paul says, he works in such a way that, if we pray enough and trust him enough, everything will conspire to make our life easy and painless. If this does not happen, it is because we have not trusted him enough. A lot of Christians believe this scenario, although blunt reality contradicts it at every turn.
The right way of understanding “God works” goes like this. God respects human freedom completely and lets events happen (including natural disasters, wars, famines, etc.). But he works in people, inspiring them to act in this way or that way, to seek him in all circumstances good or bad. If humans follow his gentle promptings, they will grow in holiness, whatever their outward circumstances. Reality confirms this. Saints are not magically protected from toothaches. But, instead of cursing, they find God in their toothaches.
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