Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, 21st January 2024

Mark 1:14–20

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

Commentary

Today’s gospel reading tells us about Jesus’ entering into his public ministry according to Mark. Mark does not give us much background about the humanity and divinity of Jesus as Matthew or Luke does. However, if we read carefully, we can find that Mark’s narrative about the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry is not less significant that of the three other Evangelists.

The arrest of John the Baptist marks the end of an era and the beginning of the messianic era. We should take note of the words “The time is fulfilled”. It is God who decides when and where the messianic era takes place. How often we only ask God’s time and place to fit into our own schedules and plans, instead of discerning God’s time and place. The messianic era signifies that the kingdom of God would embrace all nations and men and women on earth, if they repent. Repentance simply means accepting God. Jesus tells people in Galilee that the messianic era has arrived. He invites all men and women to accept the kingdom of God so that all of us could share the eternal joy with him. The beginning of Jesus’ public ministry is also the beginning of the unfolding of God’s salvation plan to mankind through Jesus.

Repent and believe in the gospel is a conversion. A conversion involves the change of life. Has out life been changed since our Baptism? Do we live a life from one of sin to one of sanctity? Jesus invites us to believe in the gospel. What is the gospel? To many, the gospel is the message that Jesus brings to us.

However, it is easy for many of us to believe the message but forget the messenger, Jesus Christ himself. In today’s gospel, we are reminded how the first apostles are called by Jesus, not by scriptures. Today’s reading reinforces the gospel of last Sunday where we learned from John the Evangelist the calling of Peter, Andrew and John at the very beginning of the Gospel according to John. Taking the same tradition, Mark put the calling of the four apostles at the earliest opportunity of his narrative.

All the four apostles are fishermen in Galilee. They are not well-educated and have to risk their lives for earning a living. But Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” Knowing their profession, Jesus gives them an image that they could understand. But this image could not be proved at the time when he utters the words to them. What Jesus wanted to achieve was to communicate the idea to the fishermen with his creative and provocative language: “Follow me and I will make you fish for people”.

From Jesus’ calling to the fishermen, we can see that one can also persuade someone of what is true without being able to prove it. This is because the proof of the pudding is in the eating as an old proverb says. It must be experienced instead of being imposed. Proving is not the ultimate goal of Jesus’ calling of us. What is important to him is truth.

The picture that Mark paints of the reactions of the apostles is vivid and symbolic. Peter and Andrew leave their fishing nets, which are the symbol of their means of livelihood; while John and James leave their father, who symbolizes authority and close relationship. Are we willing to give up our means of livelihood and cozy relationship to follow Jesus? Indeed, we can be the happiest people on earth if we follow the divine good news revealed through Jesus Christ. Amen.