Simon, Andrew, James and John join with Jesus to be come his disciples, we read in today’s Gospel.
The process of leaving family for Jesus has long been an uncomfortable subject, and often misrepresented. Only in the odd instance is it required for family time to be redacted for vocational purposes, and one of these is in Cistercian life. Most vocations have family at their center: married life being at the heart of this concept. But, even for us Cistercians, there is a strong family connection. Not only do we stay in close contact with family, but we develop a new family, too, in which we journey together towards God.
James and John leaving their father is a metaphor. Christ does not wish us to turn our backs on family. To do so would put us at variance with the entire Gospel message. Fatherhood is concerned with stewardship, a stewardship based on love and instruction. When fathers have done their job (and we must remember that fatherhood is itself a crucial Christian vocation), their children should have all they need, not only to move forward as responsible and loving adults, but to look back with devotion at the nurturing process that they have come through.
When Jesus made his invitation to the disciples, he did so because they were ready to accept it. There was a shift in fatherhood , from biological to spiritual. Their stewardship has shifted. Now, they are learning to become stewards of the Kingdom. Biological does not cancel out spiritual; neither does it call for any redaction. They are stronger together.
Let us be ready to shift towards the spiritual, to take up our discipleship. If we are Christians, then those first disciples are truly our spiritual ancestors, and we their successors. The love that we are given by family is a field of growth into the fullness of our spiritual life. As we thank God for that field, let us work ever harder to accept our discipleship, to leave our place of comfort to follow Jesus as his stewards of the kingdom. Amen.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark 1:14-2
After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the Good News from God.
‘The time has come’ he said ‘and the kingdom of God is close at hand.
Repent, and believe the Good News.’
As he was walking along by the Sea of Galilee he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net in the lake – for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you into fishers of men.’
And at once they left their nets and followed him.
Going on a little further, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they too were in their boat, mending their nets. He called them at once and, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the men he employed, they went after him.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.