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Today we begin a continuous reading of Mark’s Gospel that will carry us through this segment of the liturgical season of Ordinary Time. The Gospel of Mark does not begin with Jesus’ birth. Instead Mark begins by reporting on the preaching of John the Baptist. John is described as the voice in the wilderness sent to prepare the way of the Lord. 

Immediately after describing the work of John the Baptist, Mark reports on Jesus’ baptism and his temptation in the desert. Jesus’ public ministry begins after the arrest of John the Baptist. Mark wants his readers to understand the important connection between the end of the ministry of John the Baptist and the beginning of Jesus’ own ministry. As we learn at the beginning of today’s Gospel reading, Jesus preaches the Kingdom of God in continuity with the preaching of John the Baptist. Like John the Baptist, Jesus’ pronouncement of the kingdom is a call to repentance. This will be demonstrated again and again, both in Jesus’ words and in the actions, that follow.  

In contrast to last week’s Gospel, in Mark’s Gospel Jesus takes the initiative in calling his first disciples.  Jesus is said to have first called four fishermen—Simon, Andrew, James, and John. Simon and Andrew are brothers. Jesus promises that he will make them “fishers of men.” James and John are also brothers. Mark does report that they left their fishing immediately; their father was left behind in the boat. In Mark’s Gospel Jesus is a person of action, and events occur in rapid succession. We see this in today’s Gospel. Time is of the essence; the fishermen immediately put aside their livelihood to become Jesus’ disciples. The Kingdom of God is here and now. The time of fulfilment is at hand. it never says why these disciples leave their fishing boats and their fishing nets and follow Jesus. Why would these young men leave their family businesses and follow this wandering rabbi, who is just getting started himself Mark doesn’t tell us. He leaves that as a mystery.

After John was arrested, we followed Jesus.

The juxtaposition in the text of John’s arrest and these disciples following Jesus is not a mere coincidence. despite the danger of being arrested, like John the Baptist who has just been imprisoned, Jesus fearlessly began his public ministry proclaiming the Good News of the arrival of a new kingdom, the Reign of God, and offering repentance to all. It is the very heart of the good news—the gospel Jesus is preaching. It is amid loss and heartache that we find hope and purpose in Jesus. And maybe we aren’t quite sure why we are here today, to gather as followers of Jesus; we are not always sure of our motives for doing anything. But like those disciples in their fishing boats, something about Jesus’ call to us made sense—it resonated with us. Like many formative events in life, it’s a bit of a mystery. We don’t fully know how or why a relationship started. All we know is that it did indeed start, that it continues, and that it gives us hope for the future.

The Catholic belief is that we are called and set apart for God’s service in our Baptism, and right on through the whole of our lives, God continues to call us to Himself, not for any merit we possess but because in His providence we are the appropriate persons for particular tasks. God said to Israel in the book of Deuteronomy “It was not because you were more numerous than any other nation that the Lord chose you, for you were the smallest of all nations: it was because the Lord loved you.”

Furthermore, as God’s call comes to us as particular persons, inevitably it must be a very intimate association that He has with us … So, Jesus says, “I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learnt from my Father” (John 15:15).

We too as Catholics today are to follow that close and intimate call of the Saviour; to be the Sons and daughters of God, the friends of Jesus, the child of God … AND that is a call to personal holiness, to sacrifice and service too, to private prayer, and public worship.

How might our lives be different if we more fully shared this sense of the immediacy of God’s kingdom and God’s call?

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