3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Last Sunday, the readings spoke of the call God extends to us. This week, we find that call explained in terms of mission: “I’ll make you fishers of men.” Like the author of Jonah (1st r.), Mark also deals with two calls. He first sets forth the call for repentance to all of us: “ Reform your lives and believe in the good news.” Conversion is a lifetime job which requires perseverance! Secondly, Mark relates another call of the disciples, in which we see a definitive decision: “They … abandoned their nets and became his followers.” The first call to repentance is addressed to all Christians, the second one to those whom God calls to a life of service in the ministerial priesthood and/or religious life. It requires generosity to respond. Pray that it always may be found among God’s people.
Today’s Gospel shows Jesus traveling through a region of Galilee, preaching and calling disciples to be associated with his mission: I’ll make you fishers of men. In the Gospel today, we find three very important words: Good News (=Gospel), reform, believe! The preaching of Jesus comprises a proclamation and a demand. The proclamation, the Good News (=Gospel), is that the time of waiting is coming to an end and the Reign of God is already at hand. Jesus’ ministry consists in delivering a message that he has from God; just like the prophets who delivered the word of God communicated to them. It is a message of revelation that discloses to man God’s will and design; the message of God himself who now intervenes to change the fate of mankind through his saving work in and through Jesus Christ. In Jesus God intervenes in man’s affairs in order to bring about deliverance and salvation. Such is Jesus’ message.
And Jesus does not proclaim something that will take place in the future. Jesus knows that it is through him that God’s intervention is happening now; that God’s decisive step towards the establishment of his rule over mankind begins now when he starts his public ministry. Jesus knows that it is through him that God is carrying out his redeeming design. The wonderful gifts of God promised by the prophets for the last days - abundant revelation of God and his will, forgiveness of sins, copious bestowal of the Spirit, resurrection of the dead, fatherly concern for mankind, etc.- become a reality in Jesus.
Along with a proclamation, the preaching of Jesus comprises a demand, as John the Baptist had already made clear: Repent! God’s Kingdom demands a reorientation of life, a change of mind, a conversion, a turn. Not simply turning from but, more importantly, turning to. Still better, turning from by turning to. Three turnings, all linked: You turn to yourself, to look inside; you turn to Jesus, if only to pray, Lord, I do believe; help my unbelief, and you turn to others, for you and I are part of a people, of a world for which Jesus was crucified. Repentance in its positive sense is not a private party -you and Jesus. To repent fully, we must turn to others.
Reform your lives and believe in the Good News. By a certain change of life, we must open ourselves to the gift of faith. John the Baptist preached only repentance. Jesus goes farther and demands faith; a faith which is not concerned with a doctrine but with a Person. In Jesus, God’s Kingdom has finally dawned. In Jesus, the new age has begun. People are then invited to change their lives radically and put their trust in the Good News of salvation which comes in the Person of Jesus.
After proclaiming the Kingdom, Jesus desires that this proclamation should be entrusted to persons with the mission to spread it among all mankind. Jesus thus calls his first disciples. Two pairs of brothers -Andrew and Peter, James and John- illustrate the total dedication and radical renunciation that Jesus will ask of his disciples. To follow Jesus means absolute commitment. It requires generosity to respond to Jesus’ invitation. Let’s pray that such generosity may always be found among God’s people!