by Rev. Fr. Dr. Mathew C. Chacko
The Churches where only Sunday celebrations are possible, four important events are commemorated today - January 8th.
6th – Baptism of our Lord, otherwise known as Theophany or
7th Be-heading of St. John the Baptist
8th Feast of St. Stephen and 1st Sunday after the Baptism of our Lord [Theophany 1]
Readings for this Sunday are as follows:
St. Mark 1: 14-34; St. John 1: 18-28
Genesis 25: 19-34; 30: 36-31:2; 2 Kings 5: 1-14, Isaiah 49: 7-13
Acts 2: 37-47; Ephesians 1: 3-14; St. Matthew 4: 12-22
1. As noted above, this Sunday comes after three important events of the Church Calendar. They are worth remembering here because it will help our understanding of how the Church Year teaches us the story of Jesus, our Lord. Through the calendar of readings, we walk through the life of our Savior, thereby making our time sacred, or sanctifying our time. As we live and move in the Lord, we have him live in us as we walk with him through His story that is recorded by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
2. With the Baptism, our Lord enters into his public ministry. Here the three persons of the Holy Trinity are manifested clearly and openly. The Son is in the River Jordan before John the Baptist, identifying with the fallen creation, animate and inanimate, carrying their sin upon His shoulders. The baptism of repentance He accepts on behalf of the created world is representative and exemplary, assuring us that He took our sins on himself and that we should be repentant before God always.
3. It is the practice in the Lectionary that the persons signified in an event are celebrated following the event. For example: the Feast of the Mother of God follows the Birth of the Savior. The commemoration of John the Baptist follows the Feast of the baptism of Jesus – Danaha or Theophany.
Jesus began his ministry after John completed his. John the forerunner came to prepare the way for the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Once he finished his job, Jesus came to announce the coming of the Kingdom of God and requiring men and women to enter by way of repentance, the same preaching that John had.
Jesus is introduced by John as the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. The sacrificial death for the atonement of humanity was thus indicated by this prophetic utterance of John.
4. We celebrate the Martyrdom of St. Stephen during this period. This indicates that our salvation indicates a death, death to sin, to this world as one truly enters the Kingdom. This aspect is not understood well in our context. The monastic character of Eastern Orthodox spirituality, somehow is not deepened in our psyche. We have removed our monastic garb, by putting on royalty. Thus our unwillingness to suffer for the Kingdom, to endure martyrdom for the sake of the gospel is clearly seen. I am concerned about the fact that what we see outside betrays our inner reality which unfortunately is not monastic, but is earthly royalty.
Perhaps as we celebrate the feast of John the Baptist once again our inner eyes may be opened to see the true nature of our calling and be enabled to look at this spirit filled man – from his mother’s womb, who saw his purpose and fulfilled it. May God be merciful to us through the intercession of John the Baptist!
Commemoration of St. Stephen’s martyrdom in this context reminds us that we too are called to be witnesses to Christ, our Lord and Savior at the cost of our lives.
Now about today’s Gospel for this Sunday Teaching and Healing [Version: The Message – translated by Eugene H. Peterson]
St. Matthew 4: 12-22
 When Jesus got word that John had been arrested, he returned to Galilee.  He moved from his hometown, Nazareth, to the lakeside village Capernaum, Nestled at the base of the Zebulun and Naphtali hills.  This move completed Isaiah's sermon:  Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, Road to the sea, over Jordan, Galilee, cross roads for the nations.  People sitting out their lives in the dark saw a huge light; sitting in that dark, dark country of death, They watched the sun come up.  This Isaiah-prophesied sermon came to life in Galilee the moment Jesus started preaching. He picked up where John left off: "Change your life. God's kingdom is here."
 Walking along the beach of Lake Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers: Simon (later called Peter) and Andrew. They were fishing, throwing their nets into the lake. It was their regular work.  Jesus said to them, "Come with me. I'll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I'll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass."  They didn't ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed.
 A short distance down the beach they came upon another pair of brothers, James and John, Zebedee's sons. These two were sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, mending their fishnets. Jesus made the same offer to them,  and they were just as quick to follow, abandoning boat and father.
Here in the Gospel, we have three sections.
1. Having accomplished his mission, John the Baptist moved away, after pointing out to the world the Savior and ushering him into his ministry by baptizing him. The voice of the Father was heard, the Holy Spirit came down and dwelt on the Son. Gracious Triune God manifested Himself fully. Whoever heard it? Of course John did! Jesus did. Now you too. Perhaps, some others also!
Though John was reluctant to baptize Jesus, now he is marvelously convinced that a heavenly mystery was revealing before his eyes. Jesus convinced John earlier by saying, “it is necessary that you do it” so he can receive the baptism of repentance to identify with the people for whose sin he was carrying.
John reported: The next day, he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world! [John 1: 29] He took our sins upon himself. He was therefore accepting the baptism of repentance on our behalf. This is the day that Jesus took our sins away. He was crucified and died for us. But by his resurrection he made us alive with him and made us partakers of life with him.
Today as we recall and enter into the sacred event of his baptism on our behalf, let us walk through this sacred event thankfully and worship and adore the Savior who did this for us.
2. In order to carry His message to the ends of the earth, he needed messengers. He chose a few uneducated, ordinary fishermen and the calling of two of them is described in the second session of today’s Gospel, verses 18-20. Simon and Andrew were fishing. When they heard Jesus’ call, they left their nets and boats and simply followed Jesus.
There are followers and leaders in the community, who have heard the call of the Savior and followed him. There are others who are there for what they can get out of it. If they do not judge themselves and rearrange their priorities, there will be a day when they will be fooled. You may get what you are after, but the reward of the Master will not be yours!
You and I are called and anointed to live the good news and declare it to the world by our very lives. How are we doing it? 3. Jesus calls another set of brothers. They were mending the net in preparation for the next catch of fish. They were working together with their father. When the voice of Jesus fell into their ears, ‘Follow Me”, they too left the net and their father and followed Jesus!
Are we not lucky that we too heard his call and are following him? Let us firmly resolve today that we will listen to his voice every day and follow him where he leads us. To Him be glory together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, unto ages of ages.
See Also:Follow Me, Devotional Thoughts for 1st Sunday after Danaha
Turn Your Life Around
by Rev. Fr V.V.Paulose
Repent - The Kingdom of Heaven is Near
by Rev. Fr. Dr. Mathew C. Chacko
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