“...and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death, light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:16)
After the arrest of John the Baptist, Jesus goes to Capernaum. This was the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, which had been two of the twelve tribes of Israel. Since the Jews had been exiled by the Assyrians hundreds of years earlier, the land was now filled with Gentiles and under the rule of the Romans.
Jesus enters Capernaum so that Isaiah’s prophecy might be fulfilled. He is the light “for those who sat in the region of shadow and death.” Seamlessly, he takes up John the Baptist’s familiar proclamation, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” then sets about choosing his own followers.
When Jesus calls them, Peter, Andrew, James, and John are all in the middle of fishing, which was by no means glamorous work. They may have felt what it was like to sit in darkness–discounted by both the Roman invaders as well as their own neighbors. We are told, “Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” Perhaps this is one reason Jesus calls lowly fishermen. Their lack enables them to see Jesus’ light more clearly. They say “yes” to follow Him as he proclaims the good news.
In order to compete for our place in society, we are expected to acquire rich experiences, advanced education, and exemplary social skills. It is tempting to slip into this mindset as we look at our spiritual lives as well. Have you ever felt that you were not “qualified” to talk about Jesus or the Catholic Church, doubted your ability to give your testimony, or talked yourself into believing that you did not have the skills for ministry? This insecurity is our own darkness, but unlike the people in Jesus’ time, we don’t have to wait for the light.
Jesus is here, and He does not care about our qualifications. If we say “yes” and follow Him, He will quickly enable us to speak His word. The very first people he called were not scholarly, wealthy, or powerful–they were simple fishermen. And yet they had the most important qualification of all: the ability to “see a great light” and to respond accordingly.