The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for the home
January 21st, 2018 – Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Fishermen can be difficult people to live with. They can be moody. Set in their ways. Their success at fishing is dependent on their knowledge of the waters, their reading of the weather and most fisherman have their own secrets about how to be good at what they do. They are practical men who are proud of their profession and likely to be quite devoted to doing it well. In other words, they are self-directed. No one tells a fisherman what to do.
Thus, we read in today’s gospels the story of how four fishermen, seemingly only on an invitation from Jesus (who was NOT a fisherman), dropped their nets, left their boats, said good-bye to the sea and trailed after this stranger. Can you believe it? Seems like a fish story, doesn’t it?
Welcome to speed-discipleship in Mark’s gospel. First, a word about that. Mark’s gospel is the shortest of the four gospels and most scholars say it was the first gospel written down. It described the life of Jesus as if Jesus was in a hurry. It’s a gospel with lots of quick action and continued movement. The calling of the fishermen is a good example of this. One minute they are thinking about their recent catch of trout and the next, they are on the road for parts unknown.
Such a complete change is often called religious “conversion.” Some Christian groups emphasize the exact moment when one hears the call of Jesus to convert. And when one responds to that call. Catholics take a different approach and are more attentive to the on-going call of Christ to follow him. In that sense, Christ calls us to follow him day after day, year after year. What’s important in all situations is to be open to receive Christ’s invitation.
What’s different for us is that Jesus does not invite us to follow him as he did along the Sea of Galilee with those fishermen. For us, his call comes through people we know like our parents, religious leaders like priests and deacons, trusted friends, it really could be anyone. God can be quite creative when it comes to conversion matters. And most religious conversions are not major happenings with all the bells and whistles. They are simple, down-to-earth moments when we open our eyes and ears and sense that God wants this or that from us. Maybe a lift for neighbor’s doctor’s visit, maybe an accepting presence to a child’s worries, maybe a donation to a hungry stranger. The point is to be ready to drop your nets (sometimes at a moment’s notice) and do what God asks of you.
©David M Thomas, PhD