This Sunday’s Gospel (Jan 26, 2014: Matt 4:12-23) recounts the beginnings of Jesus’s public life in the cities and villages of Galilee. His mission did not start from Jerusalem, that is, from the religious, social, and political center but from an area on the periphery, from an area despised by the most observant Jews because of the presence in that region of foreign groups. This is why the prophet Isaiah refers to it as “Galilee of the Gentiles” (Isaiah 8:23).
It is a borderland, an area with many travelers where one meets people of different races, cultures and religions. Thus, Galilee in this way becomes the symbolic place of the Gospel’s openness to all peoples. From this point of view, Galilee resembles today’s world: the joint presence of different cultures, the necessity of confrontation and encounter. We too are immersed every day in a “Galilee of the Gentiles,” and in this sort of context we can be frightened and give in to the temptation of building walls around ourselves to be safer and more protected. But Jesus teaches us that the glad tidings that he brings are not reserved for just one part of humanity; it is to be communicated to everyone. It is a joyful proclamation to those who have been waiting for it but also perhaps to those who have given up and no longer have the strength to seek and to ask.
Starting from Galilee, Jesus teaches us that no one is excluded from God’s salvation, that, on the contrary, God prefers starting on the periphery, from those who are last, to reach all. He teaches us a method, his method, that, however also expresses the content, namely, the Father’s mercy. “Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the ‘peripheries’ in need of the light of the Gospel” (“Evangelii gaudium,” 20).
Jesus begins his mission not only from a de-centered (“decentrato”), but also from people that are, we could say, “low profile.” To choose his first disciples and future apostles, he does not turn to the schools of the scribes and doctors of the Law, but to humbler, simpler persons, who make an effort to prepare for the Kingdom of God. Jesus calls them where they work, on the shores of the sea, they are fishermen. He calls them and they immediately follow him. They leave their nets and go with him: their life will become an extraordinary and fascinating adventure.
Dear friends, the Lord calls today too! The Lord walks the roads of our daily life. Today too, in this moment, here, the Lord passes through the piazza. He calls us to go with him, to work with him for the Kingdom of God, in the Galilees of our time. Each of you should think: the Lord passes by today, the Lord looks at me, he is looking at me! What does the Lord say to me? And if one of you feels that the Lord says to him, “Follow me,” be courageous, go with the Lord. The Lord never disappoints. Listen in your heart whether the Lord is calling you to follow him. Let us allow ourselves to be reached by his gaze, his voice, and let us follow him! So “that the joy of the Gospel may reach to the ends of the earth, illuminating even the fringes of our world” (“Evangelii gaudium,” 288). VATICAN CITY, January 26, 2014 (Zenit.org)
“Myths” as that term has been used in modern scholarship, especially in anthropology and phenomenology of religion, are typically etiologies of why something is as it is, or how it came about. Genesis is an etiology of the world, the creation of humankind, languages, sacrificial customs, and finally (beginning with Abraham) of the formation of the Hebrew nation. Even when populated by ordinary people, places and names, this etiological function is not far from the surface.  Are the gospels etiologies in this sense, and if so, what are they attempting to explain?