Saints of God, the Lord be with you!
With this Sunday we begin reading from the Gospel according to Mark (1:14-20). The shortest of the Gospels, it is also, according to most Biblical scholars, the first one written, probably in Rome to a predominantly Gentile audience and preserving the remembrances of Peter.
Two things strike me about this Gospel. The first is the proclamation of Jesus, “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.” The phrase “the Kingdom of God is at hand” is said by John the Baptist in Matthew (3:2) and for him it means “near,” “right now,” “available.” However, when said by Jesus it also means “able to be grasped.” I feel this added meaning is important, since the Kingdom of God really isn’t a place, but a person. The Kingdom of God is Jesus Himself: both divine and human and thus “able to be grasped.”
I often wonder if Jesus were standing in front of us, how we would alter our speech and actions. Would we use the same language that is often peppered with profanity? Would we tell off-color or disparaging jokes? Would we ignore, or belittle, or act violently toward others? I don’t think we would do any of these things if Jesus were standing in front of us. We need to remember that Baptism gives all of us the identity of Christ. In the words of St. Augustine, “Rejoice O Christian! For by your baptism, you are more than a Christian YOU are Christ Himself!” We are Christ to other Christ’s! If only we would remember that more often, I can only imagine how our world would be changed.
The second thing that strikes me about today’s Gospel is that Simon, Andrew, James and John, are changed only AFTER they encounter Jesus: “They abandon their nets…they left their father” and FOLLOWED HIM.” This gives me great hope since Jesus never asks anyone to change before they come to Him. He never asks anyone to change before he works a miracle. People are changed because they encounter Him. At every Mass, Christ meets us where we are through the readings of the Scriptures and through our reception of the Eucharist. We changed by these encounters. If not, it’s not because Christ’s power is ineffective, but rather because we don’t allow this power (the Holy Spirit) to effect change within us.
As we begin Ordinary Time (the time when we simply count the Sundays), let us allow the Risen and Glorified Christ to change us so that we may truly be Christ for one another.
Peace and All Good,