sabato 20 gennaio 2018

«Appropinquavit Regnum Dei»

On this Sunday, we resume the reading of Mark’s gospel we had started in Advent. Today’s passage is about the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, after his baptism at the Jordan and his temptation in the desert. John the Baptist, who had baptized Jesus, has been arrested, and Jesus, maybe for greater safety, goes back to Galilee. It is in this region that most of his ministry will take place.

First of all, Mark informs us about the content of Jesus’ ministry: he proclaims the gospel of God, that is to say, he announces the good news from God and about God. What good news? “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand (appropinquavit Regnum Dei).” It was ages that the Jews were waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promises. Well, that time has arrived; God’s promises are about to be fulfilled. The kingdom of God is at hand: here is the news Jesus has come to bring not only to the Jews of his time, but to all men of every place and every time.

What does this announcement entail? “Repent, and believe in the gospel.” So, the first thing to do is to greet the announcement with faith: we have to believe the news Jesus is bringing to us. We have to believe that the kingdom of God is really at hand, and, as a result, we have to repent, that is, change our mind and our life. We should react as the Ninevites did at the preaching of Jonah. Jonah threatened their city with destruction; they received Jonah’s warning as coming from God, and turned from their evil way. Are we ready to do the same?

After telling us what Jesus did, not only at the beginning of his ministry, but during all his public life, Mark relates the call of the first disciples. More or less, they are the same we encountered last Sunday in the gospel of John. You have surely noticed how differently the two evangelists present the same event. There, we were in Judea, near the Jordan, where Jesus had been baptized; here, we are in Galilee, by the lakeside. According to John, it was the Baptist to direct some of his disciples to Jesus, and these brought others to him; according to Mark, it is Jesus who calls directly his first disciples. Whom shall we believe? Personally, I find John’s account more credible: there, the disciples begin to follow Jesus relying on the testimony of someone they already know and trust, and then they meet Jesus personally. Here, it looks hard to believe that some fishermen leave everything just because a stranger invites them to follow him. So, is Mark deceiving us? Definitely not! He is just presenting the same event from another point of view. What Mark is trying to tell us is that these disciples were called by Jesus right in the middle of their life, while they were doing their job. Well, they encountered Jesus and immediately left everything—their job, their things, their families—to follow him. 

But there is a certain continuity between their previous job and their new mission. They were fishermen; now Jesus says to them, “I will make you fishers of men.” They will continue fishing; instead of catching fish, from now on they will catch souls. So, it will be easier for them to cope with the difficulties of their new mission. A fisherman knows that, when he goes fishing, he is not sure of coming back with fish; so, they already know that it will not be easy for them to catch people. The success of their new job does not depend on their efforts, but only on the grace of God. What matters is to follow Jesus, “Come after me, I will make you fishers of men,” as if to say, “It’s up to me to make your catch fruitful. Don’t worry, you follow me.”