Just opened Blogger to see that my post from Saturday was never actually posted. How did that happen? Oh, well!
Today's Gospel has so many dimensions to it, I hardly know where to focus. We have Jesus getting the grim news of John's arrest by Herod; Jesus deciding to move far away from the trouble zone; Jesus leaving Nazareth for good and moving to Capernaum (was that also to spare his mother the risk of being hounded by Herod's minions, should they come looking for him?); Jesus beginning to preach; Jesus going all around Galilee, "preaching...teaching...curing."
It all comes down to the beginning of Jesus' own public ministry.
And today we are to be continuing that ministry of preaching that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. But how?
The easy way out would be to simply repeat the words we have been given. Sometimes you see this in pious media productions: the best they can do is repeat or reproduce the words of Scripture. Personally, I find this very helpful for prayer (those movies, "Jesus" or "The Gospel of John" are solid Scripture), but I suspect it is less than helpful as a form of missionary proclamation. It just presumes too much of the hearer. The missionary dilemma is how to proclaim the Gospel to people who do not have a common cultural basis for understanding it in its original terms.
What did Paul do? He received the message of the Gospel, took it in, lived it, and "translated" it for the Gentiles, who (as he wrote to the Romans) were not expecting it and did not have the prophetic Scriptures to go by; Gentiles who had no prior conception of God's salvation and revelation. Paul could certainly demonstrate (after the fact) that Jesus' birth, suffering, death and resurrection amply fulfilled the Scriptures, but the amazing thing is that he received this Gospel into his own life with such depth that he could proclaim it to people who had no prior preparation, and to whom the Scriptures of Israel would have remained a closed book even if they had read it. Paul became the translation of God's action, and the bridge allowing the Gentiles access to a Word of God that would have remained unintelligible to them if he had insisted on preaching it in the terms with which he himself had first heard it.
In the Year of St. Paul, this the challenge we ourselves face. For the sake of the Gospel, we are invited to be Paul living today.