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“After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: ‘This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.’ As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men’” (Mark 1:14-17).

After the arrest of John the Baptist, Jesus enters Galilee proclaiming that the kingdom of God is at hand and all must live according to God’s will. While proclaiming this Good News, Jesus calls his first four disciples, who are all fishermen. While this may sound normal to us, this was not normal behavior in Jesus’ time. A teacher didn’t seek his disciples, he attracted them. In this case, Jesus reached out first and gathered those who would become his closest followers.

Simon and Andrew immediately dropped their nets to follow Jesus. Without hesitation, they gave up everything they had known to follow the one who had chosen them, the one they put their trust in.

After Simon and Andrew, Jesus called out to James and John. They left behind their father, Zebedee, and followed Jesus. This, too, was not typical behavior; this was against the cultural values of Jewish society in first century Palestine. In those times, one never abandoned a father. Yet, these disciples were compelled to follow Jesus above all else, even if it meant forsaking their home and all they had known and loved.

“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17)

We, as disciples, are called to be with Jesus and to do his will. Knowing that Christ is with us is what gives us strength to do the work that we are both privileged and challenged to do. Some may be called to be missionaries and leave home and family; some may be called to follow Jesus by being home with their families. We are all called to be “fishers of men” and spread the Good News to others.

How is Jesus calling you today? How can you be a “fisher of men” in your daily life?

Adapted from, Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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“John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’ The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ — which translated means Teacher — ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come, and you will see.’ So they went and saw where Jesus was staying, and they stayed with him that day” (John 1:35-39).
 
Our role is like the role of John the Baptist — to point out Jesus to others. Once we do, we must let go and allow them to follow Jesus in the way they feel called, not in a way that we choose. Once we have shown them Jesus, it is their task to discern what is it they want to do.
 
Jesus’ question is at the heart of the discernment process of every vocation. He asks those following him, “What are you looking for?” (John 1:38). He is asking them, “What are the desires of your heart?” and “What do you feel you are being called to do?”
 
The response of the disciples is, “Where are you staying?” (John 1:38). They seem to ask, “Jesus, what are you all about?”
 
Christian vocation in life starts with a relationship with Jesus and his people in the Christian community. It is Jesus who will be able to direct us to what we are truly seeking. He offers the invitation to the disciples and to us: “Come, and you will see” (John 1:39).
 
We are all called to enter into a relationship with Jesus and to model our lives and values after his. Let us enter deeply into this loving relationship.
 
How do you take on the role of John the Baptist and point out Christ to others? How do you continue to grow and develop in your relationship with Jesus?
 
Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available from the RENEW International online store.

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Baptism_of_Christ“This is what John the Baptist proclaimed: ‘One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’ It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well
pleased’” (Mark 1:7-11).
 
John says there will be a difference between the baptism he offers and the baptism Jesus will offer. The vision Jesus has upon coming up out of the water describes that difference in dramatic fashion. The Spirit descends from heavens “torn open,” rending the boundary that separates heaven and earth. God walking among us in the flesh emphasizes that the Spirit is with us, suffusing all of creation.
 
The word “baptize” literally means to dunk or dip, which means that when we are baptized we are immersed in the Spirit of God. When the heavens are torn open as the Spirit descends, the whole of creation is bathed in divinity.
 
This means that when we are sent forth from Mass “to love and serve the Lord,” or even when we go to work, the gym, or the store we, as Christians, are commissioned to bring the presence of God with us to all we encounter—to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked, and build a world of peace and justice for all.
 
When in my life have I been aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit?
 
Adapted from, Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.
 
Image by Dave Zelenka

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“After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way” (Matthew 2:9-12).
 
How many times in your life have you said to God, “Please give me a sign”? Whether you’re making a difficult decision or trying to find God in the chaos of everyday life, it’s not unusual to ask God for some kind of indication that He’s there. From today’s Gospel, we see that people have been looking for signs for a long time. In their search for the newborn King, the magi followed the star that brought them first to the palace of King Herod and then to the house where “they saw the child with Mary his mother” (Matthew 2:11).
 
Throughout the Christmas season, the Scriptures speak of how God has revealed himself to us. Today’s Gospel reading shows that God revealed himself not only to the Jewish people, but also to the Gentiles, which are represented by the magi. God is the God of the whole world, not just the God of a particular set of people.
 
What are the signs today that God is for everyone, loves everyone, and wants everyone to live the reign of God on earth? We are the signs. We are called to be the stars that lead people to God. We bear the Good News to the world. We are all called to be evangelizers and do so by the witness of our lives.
 
In what ways to you serve as a sign that leads others to God? How can you be a better sign to others?
 
Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available from the RENEW International online store.

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“Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, He took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: ‘Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.’ The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted —and you yourself a sword will pierce—so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.’ There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:25-38).
 
Given their modest circumstances, Mary and Joseph must have been especially surprised at the glorious events in the temple. First, Simeon, an old man filled with the Spirit, takes the child in his arms. He, like Mary earlier in Luke’s Gospel, is moved to praise God in song. Then, the old woman Anna, a prophet, likewise celebrates at the sight of Jesus. She cannot contain her enthusiasm and immediately begins spreading the news of the child.
 
Luke’s Gospel is full of instances in which humble people give dramatic expressions of praise in response to an encounter with the divine. This is fitting and gives us comfort, because the inspiring, empowering, life-giving message of the Gospel is for all, no matter how great or small our place in society may be.
 
No one who encounters Jesus in the episodes described in Luke’s Gospel goes away unchanged, and each responds to that encounter. Mary accepts Simeon’s rather ominous prophecy about her future heartache; Joseph agrees to raise a child that is not his own, knowing people will gossip; Simeon accepts his coming death in peace and praise; and Anna sets out to spread the message.
 
For us, the task is the same: to become attentive to the God who is ever beckoning us into relationship and, through this relationship, take steps to become the person God is calling us to be. In our everyday lives, the more we grow in love, the closer we grow to God and each other.
 
When have I recognized God’s presence in ordinary people or situations, and how has that experience affected me?
 
Adapted from, Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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