WHEN Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled:
Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.
From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
[As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him.
He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.]
John the Baptist, who is Jesus’ cousin, is arrested and thrown behind bars. There is no sign if John would be ever set free again. (In fact, we shall later read that John would be beheaded during the birthday of King Herod.) Jesus did not preoccupy himself with getting his relative out of jail. He did not plead with the authorities nor did he organize an escape for his beleaguered precursor. The focus of Jesus was at the beginning of his public ministry and he took his cue from the incarceration of the Baptist. Now that John had done his part, Jesus had to do his own.
The first step that Jesus did was to break from the past–from a quiet life in Nazareth, he settled in Galilee and started to preach the Good News. “Repent,” Jesus echoes the call of John to the people, only that this time Jesus has added something new and something ominous: “for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” The son of a carpenter who was more familiar with wood and carpentry tools had shifted to preaching ministry!
The carpenter’s son started to call fishermen to join in his ministry. He will make Simon and Andrew, James and John to be “fishers of men.” Naturally, one can argue that if Jesus wishes to train a pool of preachers, he should pick them from the synagogue or the Temple, not along the seashore of Galilee. He should leave the Good News proclamation to those born from rabbinic families, those lettered and educated for the purpose.
Why choose these fishermen whose minds and wills were bent on the high seas rather than on the synagogue and the temple? These fishermen who many times must have mocked death with their sheer courage? They who have faced the raging storms with their indomitable spirit? But maybe these reasons are precisely why Jesus chose them to be his apostles. Plus the fact that they can be very sensitive to the forces of nature and could see the big hand that controls it.
Jesus’ choice of fishermen for his apostles tells us that his ways are indeed different from men’s ways. He called Simon and Andrew who were casting a net in the lake. He called James and John who were already mending their nets. God continues to call out to us as we find ourselves in different conditions like the four fishermen and like them, we will also be called to follow Jesus’ example. As Simon, Andrew, James, and John made a break from their past by abandoning boats and families, we are called to break ourselves from sin. Jesus continues to tell us today, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
Jesus’ call to repentance is a perennial challenge and is an apt and fitting reminder for us to look honestly into our own weaknesses and sins. We surrender them to Jesus who meets us today in our own Galilee as he is eager to forgive us and renew us.
– Fr. Paul J. Marquez, SSP
– (Jan. 22, 2017)