Repent and Come After Me by Rev. Paul Grankauskas
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Herald"
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Mark wrote to explain Christ
to the new Gentile converts.
After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."
As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men." Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.
The Gospel passage wherein Our Lord calls Peter, Andrew, James and John never ceases to amaze me.
Mark tells us in just a few simple lines about an invitation (“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”) and a response (“They abandoned their nets and followed him”). These four men gave up their livelihood to follow an itinerant preacher who had nowhere to lay His head. From now on, their lives would be centered on their relationship with this man named Jesus. Their love for Him, their faith in Him as the Son of God, would eventually grow to the point where most of them would lay down their lives for Him as martyrs.
And it all began with this first step: a willingness to follow Jesus, to accept the call to discipleship, to learn from Him and be challenged by Him. As simple as Mark makes it all sound, these four men probably did not just drop everything blindly.
We know from John’s Gospel that Andrew and John himself spent time with Jesus and came away convinced that He was the Messiah spoken of in the law and the writings of the prophets. In other words, there was a readiness to welcome Christ and a willingness to submit to one they knew to be sent by God.
Would that we all would be just as eager to give all to Christ. Would that our relationship with the Father and Son, cemented in the outpouring of the Spirit at our baptism, would be the guiding force in all we do, whether at work or play, at home or at school. But how easy it is to simply gloss over the very first words that Our Lord speaks as He begins His public ministry: “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.”
If we wish to claim any part of the kingdom of God, if we wish to share in His reign, then there must first be repentance. Repentance is more than simply asking for forgiveness. It means a break with sin completely, a purging away of even the affection or attachment we might have to sin.
As long as love for a sin remains, the coming of the kingdom will not be a cause for joy, but something we will hate and resent as a challenge to my freedom and way of life. It stands to reason that we must first recognize the presence of God in our midst.
That is way our participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice is so crucial for us. There Christ is present in the minister who acts in His person, in the assembly gathered in His name, in the proclamation of the Scriptures, and especially in the Eucharist itself. He still comes among us, calling us to repent and believe in the Gospel. He is still calling us to come after Him, to follow the one who shepherds us safely to the heavenly kingdom
When the first Apostles responded to Jesus’ call, it did not in any way change Our Lord. I am sure it bought Him the greatest of joy. Love received and reciprocated is a cause for joy.
The Apostles, however, would find themselves forever changed by that simple encounter on the Galilean seashore. They would no longer be simple fishermen, but fishers of men. More importantly, the encounter with the incarnate God of love would transform them into saints and fill them with a joy they had never known before.
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