Our Gospel extract today falls into two sections. After the notice about the arrest and imprisonment of John the Baptist, we have an example of a characteristic feature of Mark’s account, that of the summary statement.
Here the evangelist records that Jesus preached in Galilee and gives the main underlying theme of the content, namely, the approach of God’s kingdom and the need to repent and accept the Good News. Apart from that, we are given no details about how Jesus presented his message.
In the second part, we hear about the call of the first disciples. Jesus is unusual in this, because normally disciples (or students) would, of their own accord, gather round a rabbi so that they could learn from his instruction and way of life. Jesus, on the other hand, takes the initiative and invites people to leave their customary occupations and follow him, both by becoming his disciples and literally going with him, leaving their families and possessions behind. Here, those invited respond immediately to his radical call, just as others will subsequently.
There is a hymn which reflects on Jesus’ calling of his disciples which begins “Follow me, follow me, leave your home and family” and is often sung with great gusto by Sunday congregations. Whether we would be quite so enthusiastic if we thought that the words actually applied to ourselves is perhaps another matter. We might regard the text as a meditation on the call to the religious life, especially to missionary work overseas. But even those who accept such an invitation soon discover that life is not so simple and that daily needs have to be met, no matter how simply they try to live.
There is always a danger that we can think that certain parts of the teachings of Jesus are for a particular group of other people and therefore do not apply to ourselves. When Mark was writing, there was no priesthood that we would recognise today, no religious orders dedicated to the foreign missions: he is addressing his account of Jesus’ call to all his readers. It is true that certain people have a profound conversion experience which leads them to a radical break with their past life: some people may decide to join the Church against the wishes of their family or relations. But the vast majority of us have responsibilities that we cannot just abandon, nor are we
being asked to.
But we are all disciples of Jesus. “Repent and believe the Good News” is addressed to us today. This, for most of us, is not something that we do once and for all: it has to be a regular part of our Christian life. The fundamental vocation which we all share is to be a disciple of Jesus and to live as such in whatever way of life we find ourselves. Perhaps “repent” could mean examining ourselves to see if anything is coming between ourselves and Jesus and, if so, doing something about it.
Lord, teach me your ways:
Lord, show me your paths.
Look round your home and/or workplace: tell yourself that this is the place where Jesus is calling you to live as his disciple.
The Sea of Galilee, also known as the Lake of Gennesareth, is an inland freshwater body of water. It is approximately thirteen miles long and eight miles wide.
Disciples normally chose to follow the rabbi whose teachings and way of life impressed them: Jesus is unusual in selecting his disciples