Last week and this, the Gospel gives us “call stories,” tales of people being called upon to do something. Here is Mark’s take on the familiar story of Jesus calling some fishermen to follow. Many modern commentators speculate that these guys already knew Jesus. They’d heard him teach before, or had mutual friends, or worshiped in the same synagogue. So, even though it’s still a huge deal that they left their livelihoods behind to follow, it may very well be that they were heading off with a somewhat familiar face and voice.
Many of us moderns read this story and wonder if people are still called today. I think we are.
Following Jesus requires change, whether that be the radical one of leaving all to follow Jesus, or the more modest one of turning from the little everyday behaviors that cause us to focus on ourselves and our own needs rather than on Jesus and the needs of others. This means, of course, that this kind of change required for discipleship always has a cost.
This gospel (which begins this year’s sequential reading from Mark) is a call-response episode similar to last Sunday’s gospel from John. Here, however, the call comes within the context of Jesus’ proclamation that now is “the time of fulfillment.” “The kingdom of God is at hand” in Jesus who manifests God’s abiding Presence, God’s promise of forgiveness, God’s unparalleled power to save. To enter into this “time of fulfillment,” we must leave everything behind and answer Jesus’ call to follow him.
The gospel portrays following Jesus in radical terms: turn from evil, leave all to follow Jesus. For most of us, this is not the kind of discipleship that following Jesus requires of us. Rather, to be faithful followers of Jesus we must change and be more Christlike in the little ways that are part of our everydays: turn to listen to someone rather than let our minds wander; root out whatever attitudes and behaviors most annoy those with whom we live; think only positive thoughts, especially about others. It’s these little changes that probably actually cost us the most! It’s also these little changes that help us grow into faithful dis¬ciples and that make evident that “the time of fulfillment” is now.