25 January 2015
Homily of the Apostolic Nuncio
His Grace Archbishop Petar Rajič
According to the account of the Gospel of Mark, which is the first of the four books of the gospels that were written, Jesus began his public ministry by preaching the words we just heard: This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel. These were Jesus’ first words, his initial homily, which was to set the tone of his entire mission.
This is the time of fulfillment. The promises made by God in the past to the chosen people of Israel that he would send forth a Messiah, a Redeemer, a Saviour into the world, to save his people from their sins, has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. God has revealed himself to his people and indeed to the world, through the Incarnation of his Son, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. After his Nativity, he was revealed to the world and the pagan nations were also to discover that God is truly the Father of all nations, peoples, cultures and races on earth. The three wise men who travelled from far away countries in the East, came to Bethlehem in search of the new-born King and discovered God in the form of a new-born child, the son of Mary.
The kingdom of God is at hand. Jesus began his public ministry at the age of thirty according to the Jewish custom of the time and he made this amazing statement at the very outset of his mission. Through these words we can understand that with the arrival of the Son of God into the world, the kingdom of God is truly at hand and it is that much closer to us. The kingdom of God is no longer considered some wonderful place high up in the sky and so distant from our world, but rather, the kingdom is there where Jesus is present. The kingdom of God has come to mankind and is constantly approaching the men and women of our world today, reaching out towards those who believe in Jesus Christ and are willing to accept him as their Lord and Saviour, and make the sacrifices that are necessary so that this may come about.
Repent and believe in the gospel. This is how Jesus invited the people of his time and how he speaks to people today in this world of ours. To repent means to change your way of thinking, to conform your human logic to that of God’s logic, that of the eternal Word of God, the Logos! In order to repent, to start a new life with God, we must have a change of mind. We cannot continue to conform to the wishes of society and leave God’s commandments in second place. As Christians our primary duty is to God. We must therefore love the things God loves and despise those things God despises. We must hate sin for its evil and sinfulness. This is difficult for us since oftentimes sin takes such control over our lives that we can easily be slaves to our bad habits, which make us impervious to the workings of God’s grace. In other words, we tend to love our sins more than we do God’s love. This is why we must have a change of heart and mind, be able to recognize evil for what it is and with God’s help and personal effort, to avoid it at all costs.
To believe in the gospel means to have a mustard seed of faith so that you can send a sycamore tree into the sea (Lk 17:6), or to move mountains (Mt 17:20), which means being able to resolve a mountain of problems. To believe means to accept the thought and the truth that God so loved the world so much that he did not regret making the greatest sacrifice just so that he could draw us to himself. We believe therefore in something that sounds too unbelievable to be true, yet this is God’s truth and God’s goodness! God has come to the world to bring the world Good news, the news of the arrival of God’s Kingdom. Jesus was the one who brought this Good news into the world. It was a message of truth, hope, peace, promise, immortality and salvation. Believing in the Good news of the gospel then, means taking Jesus at his word, trusting that all he has said is true and that the promises of God shall be fulfilled.
Come follow me. In the second portion of this Gospel passage, Jesus went out to choose his followers who were to become his friends and ultimately take over and continue his mission. What is important to note is that the people Jesus chose were simple folk, hardworking fisherman amongst the many in Palestine at the time. They did not have a great education or social standing, yet Jesus saw great potential in them and gave them a challenging offer to become fishers of men.
Since Jesus planned on initiating the Kingdom of God on earth, he did not want to do this without helpers called by him, in whose hearts he wrote his divine message so that they could bring it to others and to the very ends of the earth. Everything began at the Sea of Galilee, where many fisherman gathered in search of a living. Fish is a delicious food but a difficult one to catch and the life of fishermen has always been a hard one. Jesus chose fishermen as his apostles, men who were used to waiting, being patient, who experienced failures yet rejoiced in successes, so that they could become ‘fishers of men’ and with these qualities lead people towards the Kingdom of life and truth, the Kingdom of justice, love and peace.
Jesus invites these fishermen with a few very simple words: Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men. The invitation was simple and the response from the men even more immediate, without any excuses such as ‘I have to bury my father, I have two pairs of oxen, I have a new field to take care of, I just got married and my wife won’t let me…’ And they also didn’t ask any questions such as ‘What’s your program Jesus? Where’s your ministry, parliament, media following? What are your chances of success?
Jesus chose his followers while they were working. He told them to follow him and they left their nets and everything they had and followed him. Jesus ultimately offered them a task, a difficult assignment to continue, and they had the courage to leave everything to take upon themselves the enormous job of becoming a follower of Christ.
Converting and believing in Christ is a constant process which takes a lifetime to achieve. We have to repent on a daily basis in order to maintain our commitment to faith, to God. We are called to believe in the Good News of God in a world that is bent on denying God’s existence. Our task is a difficult one but not impossible for we know and believe in God’s love for us. We are the modern fisherman of Galilee, called to follow him, who is the Way the Truth and the Life. Jesus is the Kingdom of God amongst us. Let us join him in his mission of salvation and love.