Last week we heard St. John's account of how Andrew and Simon Peter become disciples of Jesus. This week we hear St. Mark's account. They are not the same. This should not worry us too much. Both accounts are true. When different people tell the story of how something happens, they emphasize different aspects of the truth. We have to ask ourselves, what does St. Mark think important for us to know?
After John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying,
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
John the Baptist has been baptizing in the Jordan River near Jerusalem in the region of Judea. When he gets arrested, Jesus knows it is not safe to stay in this region. He moves to the region of Galilee where he grew up. Here he begins his mission, speaking about the Kingdom of God. He has good news to proclaim.
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen.
The Sea of Galilee is actually a very big lake. Filled with fish, many people spend their lives fishing in order to support their families. Simon and Andrew are two of these people. They work together at the shore of the lake, throwing a big net into the water, hoping to catch fish. Jesus meets them here.
And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him.
"Fishers of people"—what does that mean? Will they throw nets to catch people instead of fish? That does not seem likely. If that is what Jesus means, Simon and Andrew would just laugh at him. But instead they leave their nets behind. They know he does not mean catching people with nets.
When people fish with a net, they can catch a whole bunch of fish at once. They pull all the fish together. Perhaps fishers-of-people pull a whole bunch of people together. Would all these people follow Jesus, too?
So many followers. So many people together with Jesus.
Jesus does not explain any of this to Simon and Andrew. He does not tell them how they will be fishers-of-people. But they do not have to think about it. They follow him immediately. Jesus uses language that Simon and Andrew understand. They know about fish; they understand what he means without explanation.
As Jesus went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets.
Walking further along the shore, now with Simon and Andrew, Jesus meets two more brothers, James and John. They seem to be working for their father, Zebedee. They prepare their father's nets for fishing.
Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
We do not hear what Jesus says to them. We just know that he calls them where he meets them—and they come. Now five people walk together along the shore of the Sea of Galilee: Jesus, Simon, Andrew, James, and John.
What is St. Mark trying to tell us?
First, we remember that Jesus speaks to Simon and Andrew in words that they understand. They know something without Jesus having to explain. This tells us that we do not have to be extremely clever in order to know what Jesus means. This is good news for us, especially on this particular Sunday. Pope Francis has made this the Sunday of the Word of God. It is good to know that all of us can listen, hear, and understand the good news of God.
We also notice that Jesus meets these ordinary people doing ordinary tasks. James and John help their father. That is what they do. Simon and Andrew are fishermen. That is who they are. Jesus meets these people doing what they do, being who they are. And in this moment, Jesus calls them to be with him. This is the best news for us, because this means that Jesus meets us doing what we do and being who we are. We do not need to do something extra-special. We do not have to be super-important people. What an extraordinary gift God gives us! Jesus meets us where we are and calls each of us to be with him.