Something bigger than ourselves

01-21-2018HomiliesFr. Chad King

In today’s Gospel, which is the beginning of Mark’s Gospel, we hear Jesus went to Galilee, a fishing village right off of the Sea, and proclaim the Kingdom of God is at hand. And seemingly inexplicably, Jesus calls Simon and Andrew and then John and James, and all 4 of them immediately leave the fish they had caught and their boats, leave their father behind, and immediately and follow Jesus. Seems kind of sudden, don’t you think? Why would anyone, let alone 4 grown men who have a good family and successful jobs drop everything on the spot, and follow this strange man they had just met? Have you ever thought about why?

In order to understand why, we need to recall last week’s Gospel. Last week in the beginning of John’s Gospel which was written about 20 years after Mark, gives us a few more clues to fully understand. If you remember last week, John writes that Andrew and an unnamed disciple of John the Baptist was with the Baptist when he noticed Jesus walking by the Jordan River and basically declares Jesus to be the Messiah, the Savior who will take away the sins of the world.  Andrew and the unnamed disciple then leave the Baptist who they were following and ask to stay with Jesus. Some scholars think that the unnamed disciple in the beginning of John’s Gospel is none other than John himself. Which coincides with the rest of John’s Gospel where he describes himself as the beloved disciple. Unfortunately, we don’t know what happened after Andrew and possibly John stayed with Jesus that night. But John does say that Andrew went to tell his brother Simon Peter that they have found the Messiah- and his name is Jesus. It is possible that Jesus instructed them to go back home and later, when the time was right, he would come and get them.

Knowing that part of the story, then what Jesus says to them in this encounter begins to make sense, “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel”.   It’s important to notice Jesus came after John the Baptist had been arrested.  Remember that John and Andrew were a disciple of John, which means that they had left everything behind and followed, stayed with their leader everywhere he went to learn and become like him in every way. Therefore. they must have been saddened and upset that their friend and leader was arrested. Perhaps they were wondering what would happen to them, after all people knew them as his disciple. Perhaps losing hope in their despair, they were questioning if Jesus really was the Messiah and come and save them. It is in this difficult and traumatic time that Jesus comes and declares, “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel”. These are the same words that John the Baptist preached, which Andrew and John knew well; so they must have been comforted knowing that Jesus is the Messiah, and he would not let the preaching of their former leader be in vain but had come to fulfill the message.

Knowing this then, it makes more sense why these fishermen would leave everything behind and immediately go and follow Jesus. But the fact that Jesus calls these fishermen to follow Him and he’ll make them ‘Fishers of Men’, is much more than just a punny coincidence, but it really takes on a much deeper meaning for Andrew, Simon, James, and John. And I propose, it is for this deeper reason that they leave everything behind to follow Jesus.

One of the beliefs among the Jews when the Messiah came is that He would save and gather his scattered people. Remember that the 12 tribes of the Israelites after the Exodus were scattered throughout the region- many in with the Gentiles. And so, the Jews believed that just as the Lord once saved and gathered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt through Moses and brought them to the promised land, that the Messiah would save and gather all the Israelites who have been scattered in the various regions. But listen to how they believed the Messiah would gather his people. Jeremiah 16:15-16 prophecies, “However, days will surely come, says the Lord, when it will no longer be said ‘As the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites out of the land of the north and out of all the countries to which he had banished them.’ I will bring them back to the land which I gave their fathers. Look, I will send my fishermen, says the Lord, to catch them”. So just as the Lord used Moses and Aaron to gather and unite His people at the Exodus, the Lord would send out fishermen to catch and bring in His people.

Therefore, these good and anticipating Jews were waiting for when Jesus would come and begin to gather his people once again. Therefore, to hear Jesus come to them and proclaim, “This is the time of fulfillment” and then to call these fishermen to follow Him and He will make them fishers of men. What an amazing honor. Jesus was calling them to follow Him and He would make them instruments to gather their people just like he used Moses and Aaron. What an amazing honor- these young fishermen are being called by the Messiah to fulfill the prophecy and to help fulfill His mission. Knowing it was such an amazing honor to help the Messiah to fulfill his Mission, they undoubtedly dropped everything and follow Him.  And Zebedee, the father of James and John, would have gladly let his children go to give themselves to a greater purpose.

My brothers and sisters, what about you and I? We too are called to participate and share in the Mission of Jesus, are we dropping everything to fulfill the Mission God has given us? Just like these 4 young fishermen, you and I are called to become his disciples, and share in the Mission of Jesus to catch and gather His people to Himself. How are you and I doing in our Mission? That is the very reason I am a priest, I want to bring people to know for themselves the saving love and mercy of Jesus, and to help them to hear how God is calling them to share in His mission.

Many young people today are tired of the hum drum day in and day out, the same thing over and over again lifestyle, especially when they don’t see the greater purpose. And so many want to give themselves not to an ordinary job which serves no greater purpose, but they want to give themselves to something greater. Are you? That is why there are many new companies that are selling products but also have a greater purpose too- like saving the planet, serving the poor, or empowering others in other countries. Indeed, many young people want to give themselves to something greater, and while all those other things are good, they just don’t know that the greatest purpose they can give themselves to is the mission of Jesus. The greatest thing you and I can do in our lives is to become disciples ourselves, and to fulfill our mission to make disciples of every nation. That is what we are made for, and that is where our fulfillment is.

Jesus is calling you and I to live our lives not for our own purposes, but for His purposes. So that what we do, day in and day out, is not just serving ourselves but is serving Him- that it is helping, even in the smallest of ways- whether we work in retail, in labor or a trade, or for a large corporation- no matter what we do we are to serve people and help them to know and encounter Jesus Christ. What if we went to work, or school, or whatever we do, and intentionally notice the needs of others and do our best to serve and share the love of Christ with them.  When we give Jesus permission to use us each and every day for His purposes, what a difference it makes. Not only are we a part of something greater, but we personally will be more fulfilled as his instruments, as His disciples. Each and every one of us has our role, our own way of sharing in His mission. Each of us have something God has given us to do, which only you and I can do. The question is- are we His disciples and are we giving ourselves fully to His greater purposes?