Reflection for Jan. 21, 2024: Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jon 3:1-5, 10

Ps 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9

1 Cor 7:29-31

Mk 1:14-20

Do you hear it?

Jonah did. So did the brothers Simon and Andrew, and then James and John.

It's the insistent invitation to drop everything, change direction, and follow where God is leading. It can take you where you don't want to go, where you never expected to go. And it can change your life forever. It is The Call.

We hear about it in Mark's gospel this Sunday. It's tempting to think the call of God and the invitation of Christ apply only to a certain kind of person -- maybe someone who is profoundly holy or feels compelled to become a priest or religious. We tell ourselves, "That could never be me," and we shrug it off.

But turn to Mark's gospel and you realize the beauty and wonder of this episode is that Jesus didn't make those kinds of distinctions. He called out to humble fisherman tending their nets and said plainly, "Come after me." That was all it took.

Whether we realize it or not, this gospel is about something affecting all of us, no matter who we are or what we do. It is about the great call of all our lives -- the one that attracts us, challenges us, invites us, redeems us.

It is the call to follow Christ. It is a summons. To sacrifice. To surrender. To bear witness. To pray. To love God and love our neighbor, and do it as Jesus did, with profound gratitude and humility and trust.

It isn't easy. But there is one compelling detail from the gospel that should give us hope: We aren't alone. When Jesus called those fishermen, they weren't alone when they left the lives they knew. They had company. They went in pairs. Simon and Andrew, James and John.

It reminds us that being a follower of Christ is not a solitary act. Being a Christian involves another. Many others, in fact. The early Christians understood that this kind of faith was about celebrating Christ's life, death, and resurrection in community. Scripture describes their first missionary journey and describes how they went in pairs. This was for more than mere companionship. They had a support system. They had one another.

And so, they prayed together. Shared the Eucharist together. They traveled together. They preached together.

But that wasn't all.

Together, they were persecuted. Together, they were martyred. Together, they found resolve and hope, grace and strength -- consolation and renewal.

In community, they found sustenance and endurance during times of great joy, and great suffering.

And all these centuries later, so do we. Encountering this story today, we realize that we are continuing what they began. That first call of the fishermen, two by two, has echoed around the world, many times over. Today, we believers gather again and again in community, to share together our love for God, our love for one another, our passion for the gospel message. We proclaim what we believe, and we lift our eyes to a miracle: Christ's presence in a piece of elevated bread.

The body of Christ is uplifted. And so are we.

By happy coincidence, this reading comes near the start of a new year, when we resolve to make changes and amend our lives. Mark's gospel makes us aware once more that, like Simon and Andrew and James and John, we are called to leave our old ways of doing things, our familiar and comfortable habits of being -- and not just at the start of a new year, but every day. We are challenged to follow another way, to set aside the nets we mend and the reassuring routines we've gotten used to and dare to do something new.

Ultimately, we are called to walk away from the familiar and easy, and journey into the unknown, following Christ Jesus. It involves sacrifice and surrender, a desire to trust and to change.

The call to be "fishers of men," it turns out, is one that is sent out to all of us.

Do we hear it? Are we listening?

- Deacon Greg Kandra is an award-winning author and journalist, and creator of the blog, "The Deacon's Bench."