Today we see Jesus continuing John’s ministry after that prophet’s arrest.
John preached: “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand,” Jesus takes up the basic message but expands what “kingdom of God” means by saying: “Repent, the kingdom of God is at hand. Believe in the good news.”
That good news is the calling of all – not a select few – into the saving rule of God as a fisherman draws all the fish into the net. That beginning is made by the call of the Apostles. Jesus’ invitation to follow Him is completed with a promise: “I will make you fishers of men.” Here is seen a promise of the fulfillment of God’s promises to renew His people, especially reflected in the prophet Jeremiah.
Mark tells us the response of Simon and Andrew was immediate. That is a faith response – it is a letting go of the security of the occupation by which they made their livelihood and the placing of that security in Jesus. That faith response of theirs will be tested many times throughout the gospel in order that their trust in Jesus will become total and full.
Mark tells us the response of James and John was also immediate. They not only left their occupation but their faith and their friends. The meaning of being disciple is thus further elaborated by Mark in so far as he shows that, not only must one let go of things, but also of persons – even those to whom we give much love – so that the fullness of the kingdom of God be proclaimed and experienced.
This kingdom of God is always a series of ever-widening relationships. The kingdom of God is not a place. Jesus used this simple and yet profound phrase to convey to His hearers the need to see that God’s rule that men’s hearts depend on their openness to His gracious mercy.
In the book of the prophet Jonah (3:1-10), the prophet calls on all the people of Nineveh to repentance. They repent and their future is abruptly changed. It is the same with Jesus, who comes as a prophet announcing God’s will to save if only one repents, that is, turns toward the Lord and accepts His saving hand.
Simon, Andrew, James, and John saw in Jesus a world that was real – a world that did not pass away. They followed One who offered them what flood, fire, famine, and earthquake could never destroy. To let go of occupation and family and friends was little to forego in light of the promise – “I will make you fishers of men.”
Only by relinquishing our clutches on the past can we possibly seize the graces of the present and future. To move on as Jesus did becomes the only way of entering that kingdom where every man and woman is brother and sister, and there are no class distinctions creating barriers. Jesus came to break down these barriers in His person.
- Fr. John Krenzke