"Indeed, as all know, for the spread of God’s kingdom Jesus Christ used no other weapon than the preaching of the gospel, that is, the living voice of his heralds, who diffused everywhere the celestial doctrine.” - Pope Benedict XV, Encyclical Letter Fausto Appetente Die (1921).
Reading:Mark 1:14-20: After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the Good News from God. ‘The time has come,’ he said, ‘and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.’ As he was walking along by the Sea of Galilee he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net in the lake – for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you into fishers of men.’ And at once they left their nets and followed him. Going on a little further, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they too were in their boat, mending their nets. He called them at once and, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the men he employed, they went after him.
Christ the Lord. Jesus Christ ushers in the third age in the history of humanity. First there was the age of creation, when mankind lived in the fullness of communion with God and the freshness of an absolute beginning. This ended with original sin and the subsequent fall from grace, after which the second age began, the age of the Promise. God promised Adam and Eve that he would send a Savior to free the human family from domination by the devil (cf. Genesis 3:15). In this second age, God gradually prepares the world through the education of his chosen people, Israel, for the arrival of Jesus Christ, whose advent marks the time of fulfillment (“the time has come” – the third age), when God actually enters into time and space in order to rescue it from sin and destruction. The end of this third age will yield the new heavens and the new earth, the definitive and final victory of Christ’s eternal Kingdom.
As pressing and absorbing as current affairs may seem to the men and women of every historical epoch, it is the presence and action of Jesus Christ in and through his Church that gives the human story its true meaning and propels its fundamental drama. All things hinge on Jesus Christ, because he alone holds the key to communion with God, and only that can satisfy the human heart.
Evidence of his continuing intervention in history surrounds us. One of the most eloquent signs is the ongoing flow of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. Just as Jesus called his apostles to leave everything and follow him two thousand years ago, so he continues to call men and women today. Each vocation is proof of his Lordship, proof that the King still reigns. Asking the Lord to keep calling, and asking him to give courage and faith to those he calls, should be a part of every Christian’s prayer life – nothing bolsters the Kingdom more.
Christ the Teacher. “The Kingdom of God” is one of Christ’s most frequently used phrases. He came to establish it, he rules it, and he taught us to pray constantly for its coming (“Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done…”). In his initial announcement of its arrival, Jesus gives us the first lesson about what it entails.
“The Kingdom of God is close at hand,” he proclaims, and then he adds, “repent and believe the Good News.” The “Kingdom of God” merely refers to wherever things are done God’s way, wherever his will and his heart infuse life into the souls of men and women. To repent means to turn away from doing things our own, selfish way (which is the way we tend to do things ever since Adam and Eve set the unfortunate precedent). To believe in the Good News means to trust that God’s way, God’s will, is the best choice. If we trust in the love, wisdom, and power of God, we will have the courage to fashion our lives according to his standards (which are made clear and practical in the Church’s teachings). If we recognize our own limitations and selfish tendencies, we will have the necessary humility to repent. If we want to enter this Kingdom and share in its unequaled vitality and meaning, we simply need to trust in God more than ourselves – over and over again.
Christ the Friend. From St. John’s Gospel we know that Jesus had already met and spent time with the four apostles whom he calls so suddenly in this passage. It’s important to keep this in mind: far from unexpectedly demanding an irrational abandonment of family, career, and previous plans, Jesus built up a relationship of mutual knowledge and trust before he invited Peter, Andrew, James, and John to become his full-time disciples.
Likewise, only as we cultivate a true friendship and an intimate and ongoing exchange of hearts with our Lord will we be able to hear and heed his call in our life. This is not a God who demands blind obedience to his awesome power; this is Jesus Christ, true man, who meets us right where we are and walks along the shore of our lives, who wishes to get to know us, to spend time with us, and to call us by our names. This is a Lord and God who wants our friendship, so that he can share his life with us.
Christ in My Life. It’s so easy to lose sight of you in my life, Lord. You exercise your authority so gently. I know that history hinges on you, and yet, I still let myself get worried and angry and perturbed by minutiae. Jesus, increase my faith, strengthen my hope, and enlighten my mind – make me your convinced and formidable disciple.
I have heard your call in my life, Jesus, more than once. You have looked into my eyes and invited me to follow you more closely, just as you did with the apostles. Thank you for coming into my life. I am sorry for the times I have been unfaithful. Call me again, Lord, today, so that I can show you my love and loyalty by leaving behind everything that’s not your will.
You called these apostles because you wanted to give them a mission in life, something so worthwhile that you didn’t hesitate to invite them to leave their careers and their families. You have given me a mission too. Thank you, Lord, for giving me direction and meaning. Make me a fisher of men for your Kingdom.