16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18At once they left their nets and followed him. 19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
The Gospel of today includes the call of the first four disciples, two sets of brothers, in two parallel phases, Simon and Andrew, then, James and John. Mark’s version of the facts differs from that of John and this only indicates that Mark is not concerned in describing things that happened on certain day at the beginning of Jesus’ public life, but to present a catechesis about vocation. Not vocation to priesthood and religious life only, but that fundamental call that all receive which is the vocation to be baptized.
The main point of this catechesis could be the following: Jesus never stops. He is always moving around; he passes by the Sea of Galilee, calls disciples and goes ahead, then he calls more and goes on, not even looking back to see if people are following him or not.
The message is clear that those who follow Jesus should not expect that the journey be easy. There is urgency and there is no time to rest. Discipleship does not include break time, holidays or vacation. The rhythm of the journey has to be kept. The disposition to love and sacrifice oneself for others is to be continued and should be interrupted neither by weekends nor by holidays or night-time.
We learn also that the call of the disciples does not happen while they are praying or doing something extraordinary, but it happened simply while they were exercising their profession. Those who are familiar with the Scriptures would surely remember the call of Elisha who received his vocation while he was working in the fields plowing the land (IKings 19:19-21).
It is in this way because people are gratuitously called. We know and follow Jesus because he revealed God’s love to us independently of the merits we have. If we are aware of this, we will neither be boastful nor despise those who have not yet adhered to Jesus Christ. We can only be grateful to God for the gift we received and exert all efforts so that others may also become receptive to the same gift.
In addition Mark shows us that Jesus is a very unusual Master. The other masters stayed in their schools waiting for the disciples to come, learn their lesson, pay and go back home. The masters did not choose their disciples, but the disciples chose the master they wanted to follow.
Jesus did not want disciples who chose him just to learn a lesson and then repeat it to others. He himself goes in search of them and invites them to stay with him, not to simply learn a lesson, but to have an experience of life, to learn from him how to give one’s own life.
Peter, Andrew, James and John answer to the call and immediately followed Jesus. The Ninivites were given 40 days to decide, but the disciples of Jesus must decide right away and nothing should hinder such decision to follow the way of Jesus, be they attachment to one’s family, profession, financial stability and the fear to lose friends. All of these have to be left behind if they oppose to the life to which God calls us to live.
Those who are Christians now are those who heard the call and answer positively to it. But as we journey we ought to be watchful and continuously identify and leave behind all that have become part of our attitudes and lifestyle which can be incompatible with the life God has called us to live.