Fishers of Men, Church of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna, Italy.
Jesus said to them,
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. Mark 1:17-18.
There must have been something really special about the person of Jesus. He was, after all, a simple man of God, wandering about Galilee preaching God’s word. We have people like that today, but I’m sure they find it a challenge to get through to people who are rushing about their daily business. Could it have been that much different 2000 years ago? Yet today’s gospel paints an astonishing picture. He must have had a super magnetic personality to have effected such amazing responses from those who would be his followers unto death, literally dropping everything to follow him. Even if it were not as sudden as today’s gospel points out, the fact remains he collected around himself a group of people who remained with him thereafter. The gospel passage also seems to paint an almost theatrical picture. It starts with the arrest of John the Baptist (with no explanation) seeming to close an old age, and then has Jesus, as it were, opening a new age “the kingdom of God is at hand”. We seem to be witnessing the close of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New.
This theme of change is found in the other two readings of the day. Jonah’s life is changed by God’s command that he warn the the people of the great city of Nineveh that their days were numbered unless they changed their way of living. It is a theme in today’s second reading, a passage from Paul’e letter to the Christians in Corinth in Greece, where he says that “the world in its present form is passing away”, so we have to change to be prepared for it. So in the gospel the new recruits called by Jesus change their lives utterly, dropping everything to become his lieutenants. So it’s pretty clear what today’s readings are suggesting to us today, to “repent, and believe the gospel [the good news]”. So we too are called to change our lives. This means adopting Jesus’ lifestyle of service, first to God, then others, and finally ourselves. We are called to look into our souls, see what is not in line with this teaching, repent, and make the necessary changes.
Easy said, hard to do. But it is possible. It is the same Jesus that calls us to such repentance as called the original Christians. They saw him and recognized a pure goodness in him, something irresistible. They must have felt that this was what they had been waiting for all their lives, and here it was, even though they had not heard his actual message. We, 2000 years later, have heard it, and it calls to us repeatedly to swing back to the right path to God. Today the message is explicit. And it can be done, for we have Jesus as an ally, in word, in presence and above all in the Eucharist. There lies our strength to change, for the better, for eternity.
Repentance of Mary Magdalene, El Greco, Museu del Cau Ferrat, Barcelona, Spain.