24 January, 2021: Third Sunday, Year B: Jonah 3:1-5, 10; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20
After John had been arrested, Mark tells us, then Jesus began to call his disciples. We’re only in the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel and already, Jesus, who was baptized by John, is on shaky ground. He doesn’t conceal but raises his profile. And I wager it doesn’t require being the Son of God to see that opposition is inevitable.
I don’t know whether these first disciples can see that. Perhaps they can or perhaps they feel that Jesus is invulnerable; or they are desperate enough or young enough to risk the change. Perhaps the overall situation—the Roman occupation, the excessive taxes, the pliable puppet kings, the corrupt Temple system—make any alternative look good. Or they recognize the depth and authenticity in this peripatetic rabbi.
Time will prove that they have much to learn and that they are not the sharpest students. Perhaps Jesus’ patience and his loyalty attract them or that someone would take a risk on them, and bothers to challenge them—when no one else even notices their existence.
Ultimately, Jesus is right about them—even Judas has his enigmatic role to play—and ultimately these disciples will prove their worth. Their discipleship transforms their lives, though there will be no “happily ever after” for them. But they will learn to let go and spend themselves; they will genuinely learn to love and not settle for the self-absorbed simulacrum most people mistake for love.
I actually return to these passage when I’m anxious about the future of this community, our country, or whatever. Why should I expect an easy ride? Is following Jesus ever NOT a risk? Isn’t the point to get up and follow him, confronting with him whatever needs to be faced?