Jesus Uses His Brains

Jan 26, 2020: 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 8:23–9:3
Psalms 27:1, 4, 13-14
First Corinthians 1:10-13, 17
Matthew 4:12-23
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The arrest of St. John the Baptist, mentioned at the beginning of this Gospel passage, was a moment of transition for Jesus. Before that point, Jesus had begun gathering His Apostles and preaching, but only on a part-time basis. As long as John continued preaching and baptizing, Jesus stayed in the wings. But when John was arrested, that was the sign. The last prophet had been silenced, and the moment had come for Jesus, the Messiah whom all the prophets had announced, to take center stage.

St. Matthew tells us that when the moment came, Jesus left His hometown of Nazareth and moved to Capernaum.

Why? Among the many reasons, one is often overlooked. Jesus a very practical man ? he was a carpenter, after all. And He had a mission to accomplish. He had a business to start, the business of the Church, which would last for all time and spread to all nations. And He had to fulfill this mission as a human being ? not just by divine decree. This was the point of the Incarnation. So, He couldn’t just daydream, He had to be smart.

Nazareth was in the boondocks, a tiny hill town with a few hundred inhabitants, all of them Jews.

But Jesus’ mission was universal, and so, when the time comes to really get going, He moves to Capernaum, one of the bigger cities in Galilee, which was Palestine’s most populous province. Capernaum was a thriving coastal town near the intersection of the two great roads that linked the Near East and the Mediterranean. It was a cultural, economic, and political crossroads ? an excellent, strategic location to launch His business.

Jesus used His human smarts as well as divine power to fulfill His mission.

This same characteristic shows up again and again in the lives of the Saints. We tend to have an overly pious view of the Saints. We picture them as passive, other-worldly, ethereal, barely human… But that is exactly contrary to the truth. Being full of Christ didn’t empty them of their humanity; it enhanced it, bringing all their natural talents to their highest potential. Holiness is very practical.

Take St. John Baptiste de La Salle, for example, the patron saint of teachers.

In 1684 he founded the Christian Brothers ? a religious order entirely dedicated to elementary and secondary education, one of the largest teaching orders in the world.

He was from the nobility and, once ordained, was assigned to work in the Cathedral at Rheims.

As he was enjoying his comfortable, respectable position, he met a layman who wanted to start a school for poor boys.

St. John helped him get two schools going, the first of a worldwide network, and became interested in helping the teachers be more effective.

Working closely with them, he developed new methods for teaching, which became the foundation of all modern educational techniques. First, he divided the children into grades, according to their achievement levels. Second, he had his teachers instruct each group as a class, instead of only instructing one student at a time. Third, he used French instead of Latin, which until then had been the required language for all schooling, even among the poor, even at the elementary level. He also opened the first secondary boarding schools, to help young noblemen make better use of their teenage years. Then he started a college for lay people who wanted to become teachers.

There is absolutely nothing passive or ethereal about St. John Baptiste de La Salle; he knew how to use his brains to advance Christ’s Kingdom.

Holiness is very practical.

Jesus left Nazareth because He estimated that Capernaum would be strategically better for His mission forward.

When it comes to the most important aspect of our mission in life, growing in virtue and holiness, too many of us never get out of Nazareth. God created us to be saints. Every single one of us. That doesn’t mean that we’re supposed to spend twelve hours a day on our knees in church and walk around with Rosary beads coming out of our ears. But it does mean that we are supposed to grow in the key virtues that make Saints into the amazing personalities that they are. Virtues like wisdom, courage, justice, and self-mastery. Virtues like faith, hope, and Christ-like, self-forgetful love.

Too often we forget even to think about these virtues.

And even less do we think seriously about how to grow in them. Business leaders use their heads to come up with effective business plans. Sports leaders use their heads to come up with effective game plans. We Christians are supposed to use our creativity and intelligence to pursue a much worthier goal: the true happiness and fruitfulness that comes from following Christ more closely. We should use our heads ? and Christ’s teaching ? to come up with a business plan for our soul, a game plan for our life.

Today when Jesus renews His commitment to us in Holy Communion, let’s ask Him for the grace to put all our talents at the service of His Kingdom, both for our sake, as well as for the sake of those around us.

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