Sunday, January 22, 2012
The beginning and the call of the first apostles
1. Opening prayer
Shaddai, God of the mountain,
who make of our fragile life
the rock of your dwelling,
lead our minds
to strike the rock of the desert,
so that water may gush out to quench our thirst.
May our poor feelings
cover us as with a mantle in the darkness of the night
and open our hearts to hear the echo of the Silence,
so that the dawn,
which enfolds us with the light of a new day,
may lead us
to taste the holy memory,
together with the remnant ashes of the fire of the pastors of the Absolute
who on our behalf have kept watch near the divine Master.
14 After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the gospel from God saying, 15 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the gospel.'
16 As he was walking along by the Lake of Galilee he saw Simon and Simon's brother Andrew casting a net in the lake -- for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, 'Come after me and I will make you into fishers of people.' 18 And at once they left their nets and followed him. 19 Going on a little further, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they too were in their boat, mending the nets. 20 At once he called them and, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the men he employed, they went after him.
3. A moment of silent prayer
so that the voice of the Word may echo in our hearts.
Some questions to assist us in our meditation and prayer.
a) The time has come, the Realm is close at hand: do we believe that we are in Galilee and that the Gospel of God is being preached to us?
b) Jesus walks along: in which sea are we casting our nets?
c) Follow me…and immediately they followed him: is there urgency in our daily life or do we go on saying: wait a minute?
d) In their boat, they were mending their nets: how many rips are there in our nets? In which boat are we dwelling? Is it our boat or is it that of our roots of the past?
e) He called them: our name is on the lips of our Lord Jesus. Does his voice echo as the voice of one who leads us away from our sea?
5. A key to the reading
for those who wish to go deeper into the text.
We have here a literary genre of vocation stories where the condition of life of the person addressed by God is first described, then follows the call expressed in symbolic words or actions, and finally comes the following which involves the abandoning of the activity first described. The call in our text reminds us of the call of Elisha by Elijah (1 Kings, 19:19-21) and that of Amos (Am 7:15). The dependence on a typical biblical model does not exclude the substantial historical reality of the Gospel story. The similarity of the calls underscores a clear theological meaning in Mark’s Gospel, that is, the missionary practice of the disciples who will be sent in pairs (Mk 6:7). The dynamics of the Realm are in line with the original project of the creation when the Lord, thinking of Adam, said, "It is not good that man should be alone. I will make him a helpmate" (Gen 2:18). In their preaching mission, one will witness to the other, as Scripture says, "…the evidence of two or three witnesses is required" (cf Mt 18:16; Dt 19:15).
v.14. Jesus went to Galilee. There he proclaimed the Gospel from God. Jesus’ preaching begins in Galilee and has for aim the Gospel, "the Good News" of God’s initiative towards his people, the establishment of the Realm. The Apostles’ preaching will go from Galilee to the ends of the earth and will have for aim the Gospel, "the Good News" of the Christ Word who has conquered death in order to make God’s glory shine.
v.15. The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Gospel. The time of waiting (kairòs) is over, the decisive moment has come: God is about to begin his reign. John the Baptist belonged to the time of preparation and completed his mission, he was apprehended and put to silence. Jesus belongs to the time of the establishment of the reign. Indeed, it is the present that demands from human beings their collaboration: Repent. The coming of the reign points to this space of freedom where whoever listens to the proclamation can come to this space by turning to Christ, or turn from it by ignoring or refusing the good news. A Realm that is close to all, present to all who desire it. Conversion, faith and following are three aspects of the same thing, that is, the call to all to follow Jesus who is the of time, reign of God, Good News.
v.16. As he was walking along by the Lake of Galilee he saw Simon and Simon's brother Andrew… The Lake of Galilee is the background of the first phase of Jesus’ ministry. A lake that is surrounded by mountains, 208 metres above sea level, 21 km long and 11 km wide. This body of water, in the shape of a cither, was a source of living because of the abundance of fish in it. On the shore of this lake Jesus saw: this look involves and determines a choice of life different from the daily life seen on these shores made up of fishermen, boats, nets and fish. Simon and Andrew, two brothers. The solidarity of this affective bond serves as a basis for the new bond of faith that makes brothers of them beyond the ties of family. Two brothers who bear one name. God calls by name in virtue of that identity of similarity with the eternal Name that renders each person a mirror of similarity.
v.17. Come after me and I will make you into fishers of people. This following is determined by a clear order. It is not an invitation, it is a command. The creative Word of God, that called the light and the other creatures into being, now calls his image to take part in the new creation. The following does not come from an autonomous and personal decision, but from a meeting with the person of Jesus who calls. It is an action of grace, not a human choice. Jesus does not wait for a free decision, but calls with divine authority as God called the prophets in the Old Testament. It is not the disciples who choose their master as was the custom with rabbis in those days, but the master who chooses his disciples as repositories, not of a doctrine or teaching, but of God’s inheritance. The call means abandoning one’s family, profession, a complete change of life in order to adhere to a life that does not allow for personal space. The disciples are men of the Realm. The call to become disciples of Jesus is an "eschatological call".
v.18. And at once they left their nets and followed him. The response is immediate. A response that tears even the strongest ties. The verb used to indicate the following is akolouthèin, a biblical term to indicate the action of a servant who goes with his master to render him a service. It is a material following, a literal "going after". When it refers to the disciples, it expresses full participation in the life of Jesus and his cause.
v.19. Going on a little further, he saw James the son of Zebedee and his brother John…He called them. The verb to call, kalein, is another term typical of following. There is an added element compared to the call of the firs two: the figure of the father and of the workers. The father also has a name. The fact that he is deprived of his two sons gives him a unique dignity. He remains alone with the workers who will take the place of the sons. The solitude of those left behind is never a senseless solitude.
Reflection: John had been apprehended and Jesus walks in Galilee. Two paths at the service of the one Lord. The time has come. That time that humankind cannot seize and possess is fulfilled and demands a change of direction. The time for a sea and nets to fish elsewhere. Men and women are called so that nothing of who they are may be lost. Their identity remains, what changes is only the aim of their actions. No more fish, but men. No more relationship with inferior creatures, but a relationship of equality with creatures of equal dignity. New nets to be mended, the nets of a demanding kind of fishing: they are the nets of preaching that will be cast into the hearts of people during the night of pain and lack of feeling. The words "Follow me", like a key, open up new horizons. One does not venture alone on this adventure. Bonds are not broken. The brothers become more so, they still share the bitter experience of earning a living, not seeking for themselves but giving to others. The sea, symbol of everything that cannot be controlled, is there with the familiar and calm movement of the waters that break on the shore and say: Go. Jesus, a man among so many, is the God who approaches the shores of the sea, a God who walks into the life of human beings. A God who sees with human eyes, a God who speaks with new authority: Follow me. And those men who were fishermen, at once left and followed him. They leave for another sea, the sea of firm land, the sea of villages, the sea of the temple, the sea of the streets. They leave at the call of a gaze that beckons, a gaze capable of convincing them to leave everything, not just their boats, the sea, the nets, but even their father, their history, their affections, the very origin of their being. Friends who at night entrusted themselves to the waves of the Sea of Galilee, leave their zone of safety for far away seas. It is an old friendship that leaves, not knowing for where, but with hearts bearing the warmth of a voice and a look: Follow me.
6. Oratio – Psalm 86 (85)
All the nations you have made shall come
to bow before you, Lord,
and give honour to your name.
For you are great and do wondrous deeds;
and you alone are God. Teach me, Lord, your way
that I may walk in your truth,
single-hearted and revering your name.
I will praise you with all my heart,
glorify your name forever, Lord my God.
Lord, my expectations are fulfilled in your temple. You, the Living One, who continue to go to the shores of human life, that like a lake in the shape of a cither silently marks the scanning of its hours, pass and see, call… I shall know you when you call me by name and I shall follow you like a wayfarer who picks up his walking stick to go to paths of friendship and of meeting, where the heart crosses into the Absolute of God, to be a living flame in the darkness of human desire, a warmth that spreads where the cold wind of evil destroys and diverts from the horizons of truth and beauty. I know that without you I shall catch nothing in the night of my solitude and delusion. My nets will rip when you tear me away from the bitter waters of my exertions and you will give me to myself, transformed with pardon, received and given with full hands. I shall then proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters. Amen.