Pope Francis has declared this Sunday 'the Sunday of the Word of God.' When we compare the Gospel last week to the Gospel this week, we learn something important about the Word of God. Last week, St. John's account of how Andrew and Simon Peter meet Jesus showed us the Truth that God acts first. God is the one who chooses disciples. This week, St. Mark's account of Jesus calling Andrew and Simon Peter shows us the same Truth. However, we quickly notice that the two accounts are not the same. The details do not match at all. Some people will try hard to make the two accounts fit together, but we do not need to worry so much about this. The writers of the Gospels are not as concerned about facts as they are concerned about Truth. They are not recounting the news; they are proclaiming the Good News. St. Mark's account shows us the Truth that God chooses disciples, but it also shows us something more.
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.”
From the very first word of this Gospel passage we get the sense that time is important. The time of John the Baptist has passed. Now is a new time. "The time is fulfilled." The Greek word that is used for time here, kairos, brings with it a sense of opportunity. There is a ripeness about this time, like a fruit that is finally ready for eating, so full of juice it is about to burst. One moment more, though, and the time will have passed, the fruit will have spoiled.
We can wonder what Jesus means by "the kingdom of God has come near." It is a strange phrase. How can a kingdom move? Does it float around? We have wondered before whether the kingdom of God is not so much a place as a time. Perhaps the kingdom is this kairos moment. If so, we do not want to miss the opportunity, we do not want the juice of the fruit to spoil.
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. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him.
This next scene also begins with a word referring to time. That word "as" means it is happening right now. Simon and Andrew seem to have a sense of this kairos moment. They do not hesitate, but respond immediately. Jesus is passing right now; one moment more and the opportunity might be lost. They are being called to something that is moving, something that is happening. There is no time to waste.
As Jesus went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
St. Mark makes it clear that Jesus is in motion. Perhaps he is not in a hurry, but the time for waiting is over. It is happening now. He calls his disciples immediately. This is the beginning of his ministry on earth. The kingdom of God is moving, and the disciples are being called to action.
This kairos moment of the Gospel, is it gone? Has it passed? Or does the kingdom of God come near to us even now, calling us also to action? We know the kingdom of God is not yet complete. We are gifted with the opportunity to work with God to build the kingdom in all its fullness. Like Simon and Andrew, like James and John, we are called where we are and who we are.
But when? How will we know when we are called to work?
What does St. Mark make clear to us? Jesus is in motion; it is happening now. In this moment, and in this next--in each moment--Jesus moves and we are invited to act with him. We are given the opportunity to act, to choose to follow. We do not wish to miss it; we do not want the moment to spoil. The fullness, the ripeness is now.