In last week’s Sunday Gospel, St. John the Evangelist pictures the call of the first apostles. Andrew and another unnamed disciple (perhaps John himself) are in the crowds clustered around John the Baptist at the River Jordan. The Baptist indicates Jesus to them with the words “Behold the Lamb of God”. After this the two disciples are invited by Jesus to “come and see” and they spend a day with Him. Convinced that they have encountered the Messiah, Andrew brings his brother, Simon, to Jesus. Jesus gives Simon the nickname Cephas or in Greek, Petros, and then in English Peter. The name means a foundation stone.
In today’s Gospel from St. Mark, it appears that neither Andrew nor Peter had met Jesus previously. He encounters them on the shore of the Sea of Galilee where they were plying their trade as fishermen. Jesus invites them to “Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men”. Fishermen by trade; in the future, they will continue to be fishermen but in a new way.
It seems unlikely that these toughened men, who plied their trade outdoors day after day would simply drop everything at the invitation of an itinerant Rabbi. It stands to reason that the four core Apostles might have met Jesus earlier but then returned to their usual occupations. This second invitation may have come later – the apostles probably had experienced Jesus and therefore were willing to follow Him. This call initiates the beginning of the proclamation of the Good News. The Kingdom of God is inaugurated; moreover, that Kingdom has an already-not-yet tension.
Jesus has come but the early Church expected His second coming momentarily. From our point of view, their timing may have been inaccurate but the truth remains “the world in its present form is passing away”. Paul indicates in the second reading, taken from his first letter to the Corinthians, that even the ordinary things to which people cling, even the magnificent world in which we live, give us only a glimpse and a beginning of the glory of the age to come.
The new kingdom is at hand and it will not be like the Roman Empire, under the direction of Caesar, or the local petty kings under Roman domination. When Jesus begins teaching, John the Baptist has already been executed by one of those petty kings, a son of Herod the Great.
The new kingdom is a response to God’s invitation to share His life. Our response is one of repentance (in Greek, “metanoia”, meaning a conversion of mind and heart) and a belief in the Gospel. Someday, veiled from our eyes, the Kingdom will come in its fullness. Now we are agents in the proclamation of that Kingdom. The readings today intimate an urgency in that Proclamation. Perhaps like Jonah in the first reading, we are reluctant prophets. We may try to run from God. But He can and does use us, as He did Jonah, to lead others to repentance. Peter, Andrew, James and John would prove to be less than perfect disciples and yet they started a world-changing movement which still continues. They responded to Jesus immediately and their lives changed radically. There is an urgency here! If God could use those Galilean fishermen and a prophet like Jonah then there is certainly room for us! But time is limited, we must be Jesus’ active disciples now!
Deacon Dean & Msgr. McGuirl