Calling of Peter and Andrew
Duccio di Buoninsegna [Web Gallery of Art]
Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)
Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)
Gospel Mark 1:14-20 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised CatholicEdition)
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
Speaking in Rome to members of ecclesial movements on the evening of Saturday 17 May 2013, the Vigil of Pentecost, Pope Francis told this story:
One day in particular, though, was very important to me: 21 September 1953. I was almost 17. It was ‘Students’ Day’, for us the first day of spring — for you the first day of autumn. Before going to the celebration I passed through the parish I normally attended, I found a priest that I did not know and I felt the need to go to confession. For me this was an experience of encounter: I found that someone was waiting for me. Yet I do not know what happened, I can’t remember, I do not know why that particular priest was there whom I did not know, or why I felt this desire to confess, but the truth is that someone was waiting for me. He had been waiting for me for some time. After making my confession I felt something had changed. I was not the same. I had heard something like a voice, or a call. I was convinced that I should become a priest.
What is striking is that the young Jorge Mario Bergoglio experienced God’s call to the priesthood unexpectedly and within the context of confession. In today’s Gospel the call of Simon and Peter, of James and John to follow Jesus is within the context of a call to conversion: repent, and believe in the good news.
In the First Reading God sends a very reluctant Jonah to Nineveh to call the people there to repentance. And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.
An old photo of Portobello Bridge, Dublin [Wikipedia]
Last Monday on Nationwide on RTÉ, Ireland’s national radio and TV service, a young Irish Dominican friar, Fr David Barron OP, told how he remembered the very moment when he decided to give up his job in banking, in which he was very happy, to become a Dominican priest: One evening, coming on the bus from Trinity (Dublin University) into Rathmines, coming over Portobello Bridge, I still remember, I finally gave in and said, ‘I’ll give it a go’ [11:17 – 11:29 in the video].
The Prophet Jonah Before the Walls of Jericho
Rembrandt [Wikipedia Commons]
The First Reading, from the Book of Jonah, shows the people of Nineveh, from the King down, believing the reluctant prophet and then fasting and repenting.
In the Gospel Jesus preaches, Repent, and believe in the good news. It is in the context of that proclamation to the people in Galilee that Jesus invites Simon and Andrew, James and John, to follow him. Each of the four could make the words of Pope Francis their own: For me this was an experience of encounter: I found that someone was waiting for me. Yet I do not know what happened . . . I was not the same. I had heard something like a voice, or a call. That call was to lead the four of them to leave everything to follow him, a decision that was to bring three of them to martyrdom. The young Jorge Mario Bergoglio could not have had the slightest idea that listening to God’s call would lead him to Rome.
About 16 years ago I did a mission appeal in a parish in England where the then recently appointed parish priest had inherited a filthy rectory/presbytery/convento from his predecessor. He had managed by then to clean up only his own bedroom. He could not invite me to stay at his place because the guest room was filthy and so had me put up by a neighbouring parish priest.
The people of Nineveh cleaned up the ‘room’ of their inner heart by turning away from sin and allowed the word of God to enter. The Gospel suggests that the two sets of fishermen-brothers had done the same and were able to hear and respond to the call of Jesus there and then.
May we do likewise, with God’s grace, especially through the sacrament of reconciliation / penance / confession.
Jesus calls each of us through baptism into an intimate, personal relationship with him. He eventually reveals to us, within that relationship, the specific vocation to which he invites us – to marriage, to the priesthood, to religious life, to remaining single. We can only hear that specific invitation from Jesus if we constantly repent of our sins and accept his loving forgiveness and mercy.