21 January 2018
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
1 Cor 7:29 – 31
Mark 1.14 – 20
In a certain family there were three children. When they reached their early twenties two of them had made up their minds what to do. One felt he was called to marry his girlfriend, the other decided to become a priest whilst the third didn’t decide until 8 years later. He too chose marriage.
It was obvious that each responded to a call. One of the two who married experienced the painful death of his wife after a number of years fighting cancer. The priest was badly attacked in his church by robbers who sought money for their drug habit. It took many months in hospital before he could return to his place of work again. Up to now the third seems to have had no major trauma in his life. But each starting off had no idea what his choice would lead to.
This reminds us of the gospel today. It has two main parts. One is the call of Jesus to us to repent and believe the Good News of God. Then there is his call to the two sets of brothers to leave their chosen professions (as fishermen) and follow him.
Jesus says as he begins his preaching in Galilee: ‘The Kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent and believe the Good News’. What is the Kingdom of God?
It is not so much a place but rather a web of relationships, the most important being our relationship with Jesus. The word repent comes from the word ‘metanoia’ which means to look at things (at life) in a new way. It means looking at life as Jesus does, living by gospel values of love, forgiveness, compassion, kindness etc. So the Kingdom of God belongs to all those who accept and try to live by the vision of life that Jesus gave us. Metanoia may mean a change of direction as regards the priorities in my life. It is much more a turning to than a turning from. Not so much a turning from unchristian behaviour even though it will involve that, than to a turning to the person of Jesus and entering into a real personal relationship with him. It means a total commitment of my life to Jesus, throwing in my lot with him without any guarantees or conditions.
In the story at the beginning none of the three knew what the future would bring.
The second part of the gospel today shows the first responses to the call of Jesus. Four fishermen are called. They may well have known Jesus before this incident. In any case, they respond to his call. They leave their nets (their means of livelihood) and follow Jesus. They leave their father and the other fishermen, the way of life and place they are used to, all that is familiar. It is good to note that Jesus did not call all the fishermen to follow him, just these four. The vocation of the others was to stay where they were and continue to be faithful to their work and families. We note too that two of the four were actually fishing at the moment of their call whilst the two others were mending their nets. A reminder to us that God calls us in a different situations.
But for the four called by Jesus, it involved a complete act of trust and total surrender. They had no idea where they were going or what the future held for them. They trusted Jesus and followed him. If we read the rest of the gospels we know that they weren’t always ideal followers of Jesus. They often misunderstood him, fought for the best places, even betrayed him and ran away. But Jesus did not give up on them and eventually they were able to respond fully by giving their own lives. It was a slow learning process.
Are we any different? We decide on a particular vocation hoping to be faithful to what it involves, whether it is marriage, single life, the lay state, priesthood or the religious life. Sometimes our fears, our selfishness get in the way. We even betray Jesus by our actions. But he never gives up on us. He sees our potential for greatness. Sometimes the struggle is harder than at other times but hopefully bit by bit we commit our lives to Jesus; we turn to him more and more. We are in fact, in the process of repentance but it takes time. Rarely do many make an instant and continuous perfect total response.
The call is still going out to each one of us. Am I ready to answer? To follow? Where do I need to adjust, to get my priorities right, to live the value system of Jesus? It is by being concerned and trying to make others happy that we will have more joy and peace. What are my entangling nets, limiting my freedom to follow? What personal relationships are blocking my way? What anxieties? What self-centred ambitions?
Jesus started his ministry with a call to repent and believe the Good News of God. What would I consider this Good News to be? Above all it is that God loves us passionately, unconditionally. He knows our struggles, our hesitations, limitations and sinfulness but he knows that each has the potential to respond more and more to this incredible love. The gospel changes lives. It changed the lives of the first four called. Should it not change ours? How am I experiencing this?
“Lord Jesus, help us to repent where necessary and respond to your call generously. Amen”.
Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA