Franciscan Gospel Reflection Third Sunday of Ordinary Time 2023

Sister JulieAnn Sheahan

January 20, 2023

Franciscan Friar Fr. Paul Gallagher reflects on the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time. This gospel suggests that the death of John the Baptist was influential in Jesus’ beginning his public ministry. What have been some of the things that played a role in you making some of the career decisions in your life? Can you look back on those as being the hand of God’s presence in your life?

The content is edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. To read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here Franciscan Gospel Reflection January 22 2023. Excerpts are from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Photos: Eucharistic stained glass windows are from Archdiocese of Milwaukee St. Paul Catholic Church. A family of intentional disciples on a mission to love God and love neighbor, they invite you to join them in the sacraments and service to others in need.

Matthew 4:12-23

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled: “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.” From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him.

He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.


The arrest of John the Baptist brought his ministry to an end. The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all indicate and agree that Jesus did not begin his ministry until John’s ministry had ended. The exception is John’s gospel, where Jesus and John are ministering concurrently. Some scholars believe that Jesus may have even been a disciple of John in the very early part of his own ministry. In first stages of his ministry he, like John, called people to repentance and baptism as a sign of their conversion. But as Jesus preached, he discovered that he was also gifted by God with the grace to heal. As he experienced this gift and it became more a part of his own ministry, his understanding of himself and his mission evolved. At some point, he began to invite others to become his followers. The gospels do not give a clear understanding of how Jesus came to his own awareness of his ministry. But such explanations are compatible with the human experiences most of us have as we mature into self-understanding.

While John is distinct in describing Jesus beginning his ministry while John the Baptist is still alive, Matthew is unique in his use of quotes from the Hebrew scriptures to explain events in Jesus’ life. The beginning of the gospel text for today states that Jesus moved from his home at Nazareth to the fishing community of Capernaum. Capernaum was on the trade routes. That would have provided a variety of people for Jesus to engage with his message of repentance and the coming reign of God. But the fact that Capernaum was within the Gentile territory could have been a source of scandal too. By quoting the great prophet Isaiah, Matthew suggests that this move is not a scandal, but rather Jesus obeying the will of God, whose concern extends to the ends of the earth.

Followers of the Rabbis normally presented themselves for training. Contrary to this tradition, Jesus called his disciples. During the dry season, when farmers were waiting for the harvest, the work was left to servants. Traditionally, this was the time when men gathered to debate and to “be seen.” It was the time when one who wished to promote a cause or had a grievance would gather followers. It was assumed that in time those followers would return to their normal daily lives. The pairs of brothers, Peter and Andrew and James and John, are described as fishermen, one of the most successful and stable family businesses of the day. They are presented as leaving the business, their position in the community, and, in the case of James and John, even their father, to become followers of Jesus.

Reflection Questions:                                              

  1. Have you ever moved far from home, geographically or emotionally? Why? What was it like?
  2. This gospel suggests that the death of John the Baptist was influential in Jesus’ beginning his public ministry. What have been some of the things that played a role in you making some of the career decisions in your life? Can you look back on those as being the hand of God’s presence in your life?
  3. What might have been going on within Jesus when he heard that his cousin John the Baptist had been arrested? What do you think his prayer might have been like during these days?
  4. The first line of the text states that Jesus withdrew to Galilee. What do you think might be the motivation for Jesus to move to Galilee and then take up residence in the busy city of Capernaum?
  5. What do you think it was like for James and John and Andrew and Peter to have Jesus ask them to be his disciples?
  6. What do you think those early days of Jesus’ ministry were like? What would it have been like to be part of Jesus’ inner circle at this point in his life?
  7. Do you have any awareness that God is asking you to be his disciple?
  8. Have you ever been afraid to think about what God desires of you, because it may be difficult, or because it may demand more of you than you are ready to endure?
  9. As you experience God’s relationship to you through this text, what would you like to say to God?


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