Gospel: Mark 1:14-20

Conversion and Personal Commitment

How many times have commitments you made changed your daily routine? What commitments have changed your life?

"I promise . . . " Those words lie at the base of our moral character. Not only do they require that our deeds match our words. They demand that we change to match our words. The vows of marriage mean abandoning the single life. A job change or school choice means old friends and habits are lost. Even a brief moment that shows moral strength can resonate throughout our lives. Consider how many lives have been changed because of a simple moral lapse in a fleeting moment.

In truth, we have all made false promises and wrong moral choices. Faced with these facts, can we change for the better? In Mark's gospel, Jesus proclaimed a renewal of moral character based upon a simple invitation: "Follow me."

Popular Translation

14 After the arrest of John the Baptist, Jesus returned to Galilee and proclaimed the Good News of God. 15 "The time is right for God's Kingdom to appear," Jesus announced. "Turn you life around and believe in God's message to you."

16 As he traveled along the Sea of Galilee, Jesus saw Simon and his brother, Andrew, at work fishing. 17 "Follow me," Jesus called out to them, "and I will teach you to catch people." 18 They set their work aside at that moment and followed Jesus.

19 Jesus walked a little farther when he saw Jacob and John, his brother, working on some fishing nets in a boat. Both were the sons of a man named "Zebedee." 20 Jesus called them at that moment. They left their father in the boat with his other workers and followed Jesus.

Literal Translation

14 But, after John was arrested, JESUS came into Galilee proclaiming the Good News of God, 15 and saying, "The moment has been fulfilled and the Kingdom of God comes near. Repent and believe in the Good News."

16 Traveling along the Sea of Galilee, HE saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, throwing nets into the sea. For, they were fishermen. 17 Jesus said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men." 18 And immediately having set aside (their) nets, they followed HIM. 19 And having gone a little farther, HE saw Jacob, (son) of Zebedee, and John his brother, (while) they, in the boat, mended the nets. 20 And, immediately, HE called them. And having left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired workers, they followed HIM.

1:14 " . . . was arrested . . . " is literally " . . . handed over (to the authorities) . . . "

1:15 "moment" in Greek is "kairos," meaning "the right time" or "event." This sense of time is different from chronological time (the flow of time). "...comes near . . . " is actually in the past ("has come near.") Obviously, there is a sense of immanence. Taken with the previous clause, a loose translation would be "The time is right for the Kingdom of God to appear."

1:16 "Sea of Galilee" is misnamed. It is actually a fresh water lake, not a sea full of salt water, like the Dead Sea.

1:17 "Follow me" is literally "Come (here) after me." The force of the phrase is invitation, not command.

"I will make you become . . . " is literally "I will make you to become . . . " Jesus will form them into traveling evangelists and ministers for God's Kingdom.

1:19 " . . . (while) they, in the boat, mended the nets." is literally "and they, in the boat, mending the nets." This is an awkward clause translated as temporal clause. It could also be translated as a relative clause ("Jacob . . . and John . . . who mended the nets in the boat.") In either case, the verb "mend" is misleading. The nets were not worn or ripped. Jacob and John were performing daily maintenance on the nets.

1:20 " . . . they followed him." is literally " . . . they went off after him."

This week, Mark presented the call of the disciples, in the same way John presented the call last week. John saw evangelization as a process of personal witness, personal invitation, and discipleship from friend to friend. Mark, however, placed the call to discipleship in the public arena; it was made directly by Jesus. John emphasized the role of the disciple recruiting others. Mark emphasized the relationship of Jesus to the disciple.

Mark began with the arrest of the Baptist to introduce Jesus to public ministry. Jesus picked up the Baptist's theme. The Kingdom of God is immanent. Repent. Unlike the Baptist, Jesus did not proclaim the advent of the Messiah. He preached belief in the Good News. Soon, the preaching of the gospel would eclipse the expectation for God's chosen One. [1:14-15]

The Good News demanded a response. It was more than a moral turnabout. It meant a new life situation, a new relationship with God. For Mark, Jesus was the embodiment of the Good News. His preaching, his call, established this new relationship with God. Notice Jesus called four men and all four responded immediately (Mark's transition word used in 1:18 and 1:20). Leaving their livelihood and followed the preacher and presence of the Good News.

Much has been written about the social context for Jesus' ministry. Unlike John the Baptist whose ministry had a geographic location, Jesus took his ministry on the road. People came to see the Baptist, while Jesus came to the people. While John drew his congregation from Jerusalem and outlying areas, Jesus' ministry lay in the backwater countryside of Galilee. The Baptist got the attention of the leadership in Judaism, but Jesus did not encounter official criticism immediately.

These differences made the ministry of Jesus easier to ignore, but, ultimately, more dangerous to the leadership. Jesus was the leader of a group movement. In a culture with few social supports, people at the time of Jesus had to be self-sufficient. Hence, they would form a group for a common goal. Indeed, group identity and power became all important. Extended families would intermarry and form alliances for the common good. Governments (i.e., royal families) would contract with groups (i.e., local families and village cooperatives) to gather produce and bring it to market; in turn, the government would receive a large percentage of the profits. (Scholars speculate Peter, Andrew, James, and John belonged to government-sanctioned groups that fished the lake; tax records from first-century Galilee strongly infer such groups existed.) Even charismatic leaders would gather people together for a common end, economic, political, or religious. Like the rest of society, Jesus formed a group whose members moved from place to place (like an army). Peter, Andrew, James, and John were among the first to partake in the mobile ministry of Jesus.

However, the message of Jesus proved to be as threatening as his means. In a static culture that did not change from generation to generation, Jesus preached something new. God would come and change everything. For their own reasons, the first four disciples left the safety of their group (family and friends) for the challenge of a new life based on this new message. They responded to the call of Jesus, for they wanted to live with Jesus. The call of Jesus was more important than any security, any relationship, any possession they had.

Catechism Theme:  Why a Sacrament of Reconciliation after Baptism? (CCC 1424-1426)

Why is there a Sacrament of Reconciliation after Baptism? To answer that question, we need to ask: why do we sin after baptism? The Catechism states:

"...the new life received in Christian Initiation (i.e., Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist) has not abolished the frailty and weakness of human nature, nor the inclination to sin that tradition calls concupiscence . . . "

The message ("Repent and believe the Good News") and call of Jesus ("Come and see") are actually one. To have a personal relationship with God's Son requires a constant spirit of repentance and faith in the gospel. While the key moment of repentance and personal faith in Jesus is Baptism, our response many times falls short. Many times, we need to renew our moral conversion and our faith choice. We need to experience the loving touch of God's mercy. The Sacrament of Reconciliation provides us such a time and such an experience.

How has your life changed when you chose to believe in Christ? How have you renewed that choice?

"Follow me." The invitation Jesus gave his early followers is the same he makes to us now. He invites us to change and believe. We need to realize he not only give us the challenge, he gives us the means to abandon our former life of sin and to trust in God. He gifts us with the Spirit. So, the call of Jesus is not only a direction; it is a helping hand. Human frailty may trip us from time to time, but the Lord will not disappoint. When we follow the Lord, he leads us and sustains us.

Try to look at your life this past week through God's eyes. Write down your spiritual successes and failures. How has God helped you with your successes? How have you disappointed God with your failures? Pray God renews your commitment to his Son this coming week.