Following Jesus Is All or Nothing

User’s Guide to Sunday, Jan. 26

(photo: CNA photo)

Sunday, Jan. 26, is the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time. Mass readings: Isaiah 8:23-9:3; Psalm 27:1, 4, 13-14; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13,17; Matthew 4:12-23.

Jesus begins his public ministry with a move that speaks volumes before he utters a word: He goes into the region of Galilee, and he does so intentionally.

Why? To fulfill a prophecy of light to a darkened land that had been the first to experience the utter destruction of conquest at the hands of Israel’s enemies centuries before.

Lack of faithfulness to the covenant had left the region of Zebulon and Naphtali vulnerable and ultimately “overshadowed by death,” including death of the worst kind, that is, separation from God because of sin.

But Jesus has come to heal and restore.

He goes into the dark places and brings light in his words of repentance and hope and in physical healings that manifest the deeper work of redemption and reconciliation he has come to accomplish.  

Jesus has also come to begin a Church that will continue this work through time, and he wastes no time in calling the first of the men who will be its leaders.

“It is evident,” writes Fulton Sheen in Life of Christ, “that from the beginning, Our Blessed Lord intended to prolong His teaching, and His reign and His very life ‘unto the consummation of the world’; but in order to do this He had to call to Himself a body of men to whom He would communicate certain powers that He had brought with Him to earth. This body would not be a social body such as a club, united only for the sake of pleasure and convenience; nor would it be a political body, held together by common material interests; it would be truly spiritual, the cement of which would be charity and love and possession of His Spirit. If the society or Mystical Body Our Lord wanted to found was to have continuity, it would need a head and members. If it was a vineyard … it would need laborers; if it was a net, it would need fishermen; if it was a field, it would need sowers and reapers; if it was a herd, or a flock, it would need shepherds.”

These shepherds, these first “fishers of men” whom Jesus calls in the Gospel, are two sets of brothers: Peter and Andrew, James and John.

To their credit, they follow him immediately and courageously, without hesitation, dropping their nets and leaving their families and their businesses.

To be a follower of Christ demands a radical, all-in response. There is no alternative.

It also demands that we are unrelenting in our faithfulness to the one true Church itself, handed on to these same apostles.

In the second reading Paul cautions the Corinthians — and all of us — against divisions within the Body of Christ. The history of Christianity includes a trail of splinters and factions, which, like the Galileans, leave us vulnerable to the attack of our great common Enemy. Even now, even within the Church, we must be on guard against those who preach a gospel without suffering, “that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.”

Claire Dwyer blogs at and works for the

Avila Foundation from her home in Phoenix,

where she lives with her husband and six children.