Reflection on the call of the Apostles, according to Mark

Last week, J the B called Jesus "the Lamb of God" and prompted disciples to follow Jesus. The way Mark tells the same story, there's no lamb, only fish.

The first reading is the section of the book of Jonah in which the runaway prophet finally reaches his objective, the great Assyrian city of Nineveh, and is a wild success. All that running away, weathering God's storm and being swallowed by the fish was for nothing. He gives one speech and the Ninevites see the evil of their ways and repent. Talk about "Mission accomplished!"

In the gospels, Jesus walks by the shore and cherry-picks Andrew and Simon and the Zebedee bros -- James and John -- from the fish trade. "I'll make you fishers of men!" J exclaims, which might have read less as high holiness than low (even lame!) comedy in 1st century Galilee.

What ties the first reading together with the gospel is the idea of people being pulled out of their comfiort zones by a special call of God. Jonah was called to preach to the baddest folks on the planet; the disciples were called to abandon their livelihoods to follow an unknown preacher. But the stories are tied together by contrast as well as similarity. Jonah tried to flee the call. He literally fled in the opposite direction -- west to Tarshish rather than East to Nineveh. The disciples, OTOH, dropped everything immediately. Not a word. No complaints. No explanations. You might want to allow for a little poetic license on Mark's part in telling the story. But still, it's striking that Andrew, et al, are shown responding with eagerness and even reckless abandon to follow Christ. While Zebedee is portrayed as having hired men to help with the fishing, the disciples did had families to feed. There's a "crazy go nuts!" aspect to their reaction. Was this something they had prepared for? Were they just waiting for the right time and the right person? Was it just a matter of triggering their Messiah Contingency Plan?

In any event, they went. They left the comfort of their small lives by the sea, which would have been the safe, predictable and utterly without effect. They instead embarked on a perilous journey with no known outcome except the hope that God would somehow make it all come out right.
Let us pray.

Lord, we like safety and easy choices. We like to stay with the tried and true and hate to set out into the unknown. Yet you are the Greatest Unknown there is to know. To know you is to journey away from the predictable, the comfortable and the wordly rewarding. Give us the strength to start the journey as did your Son's first disciples. Give us the courage to accept the inevitablity of the journey, as did Jonah. May we strike out into new territories of compassion, patience, risk, service and suffering for your sake, adding bricks to your kingdom and souls to your heart. In the most holy name of Jesus, your Son, we pray.