The calling of the brothers in today’s Gospel evokes Elisha’s commissioning by the prophet Elijah (see 1 Kings 19:19-21).
As Elijah comes upon Elisha working on his family’s farm, so Jesus sees the brothers working by the seaside. And as Elisha left his mother and father to follow Elijah, so the brothers leave their father to come after Jesus.
Jesus’ promise—to make them “fishers of men”—evokes Israel’s deepest hopes. The prophet Jeremiah announced a new exodus in which God would send “many fishermen” to restore the Israelites from exile, as once He brought them out of slavery in Egypt (see Jeremiah 16:14-16).
By Jesus’ cross and resurrection, this new exodus has begun (see Luke 9:31). And the apostles are the first of a new people of God, the Church—a new family, based not on blood ties, but on belief in Jesus and a desire to do the Father’s will (see John 1:12-13; Matthew 12:46-50).
From now on, even our most important worldly concerns—family relations, occupations, and possessions—must be judged in light of the gospel, Paul says in today’s Epistle.
The first word of Jesus’ gospel—repent—means we must totally change our way of thinking and living, turning from evil, doing all for the love of God.
And we should be consoled by Nineveh’s repentance in today’s First Reading. Even the wicked Nineveh could repent at Jonah’s preaching. And in Jesus we have a greater than Jonah (see Matthew 12:41).
We have God come as our savior, to show sinners the way, as we sing in today’s Psalm.
This should give us hope—that loved ones who remain far from God will find compassion if they turn to Him. But we, too, must continue along the path of repentance—striving daily to pattern our lives after His.
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross [Edith Stein] For the First Profession of Sister Miriam of Little Saint Thérèse
Whoever allows herself to be led like a child in the harness of holy obedience will reach the kingdom of God that is promised to “little ones” (Mt 19,4).
Obedience led Mary, the royal daughter of the house of David, to the simple little house of the poor carpenter of Nazareth. Obedience led both of these most holy people away from the secure enclosure of this modest home onto the highway and into the stable at Bethlehem. It laid the Son of God in the manger.
In freely chosen poverty the Savior and his mother wandered the streets of Judea and Galilee and lived on the alms of the faithful. Naked and exposed, the Lord hung on the cross and left the care of his mother to the love of his disciple.
Therefore, he demands poverty of those who would follow him. The heart must be free of ties to earthly goods, of concern about them, dependence on them, desire for them, if it is to belong to the divine Bridegroom exclusively.
St. Leo the Great Sermon 1 for the Nativity of the Lord, 3
Let us then, dearly beloved, give thanks to God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Spirit, who “for the great mercy wherewith He has loved us,” has had pity on us, and “when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life in Christ,” (Eph 2,5) that we might be in him a new creation and a new production. Let us put off then the old man with his deeds (Col 3,9), and having obtained a share in the birth of Christ let us renounce the works of the flesh.
Christian, acknowledge your dignity, and since you have become a partner in the Divine nature (2Pt 1,4), refuse to return to the baseness you were in before. Remember whose is the head and body of which you are a member (Eph 4,15-16). Recollect that you were “rescued from the power of darkness and have been brought into God’s light and kingdom” (Col 1,13). By the mystery of baptism you were made the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6,19); do not put so great a guest to flight by evil deeds and so subject yourself once more to the devil’s thraldom, because you have been redeemed by the blood of Christ.
Saint Jerome from Homilies on the Gospel of Mark
“They left and became his followers”
“Jesus said to them, ‘Come after me; I will make you fishers of men.’” Happy transformation of fishing! Simon and Andrew are what Jesus caught fishing… These men are made similar to fish, caught by Christ, before going themselves to catch other people. “They immediately abandoned their nets and became his followers.” True faith knows no delay. As soon as they heard him, they believed, they followed him, and they became fishers. “They immediately abandoned their nets.” I think that with those nets, they abandoned all the vices of the life of this world…
“Proceeding a little farther along, he caught sight of James, Zebedee’s son, and his brother John… He summoned them on the spot. They abandoned their father Zebedee, who was in the boat with the hired men, and went off in his company.” You will tell me: faith is daring. What indication did they have, what sublime characteristic had they noted that made them follow him as soon as he called them? We realize that evidently something divine came forth from Jesus’ gaze, from the expression on his face, which incited those who looked at Jesus to turn towards him… Why am I saying all this? It is to show you that the Lord’s word was active, and that through the least of his words, he was working on his task: “He commanded and they were made.” (Ps 148:5) With the same simplicity, he called and they followed…: “Hear, O daughter, and see; turn your ear, forget your people and your father’s house. So shall the king desire your beauty.” (Ps 45:11-12)
Listen well, brother, and follow the path of the apostles; listen to the Savior’s voice, ignore your father according to the flesh and see the true Father of your soul and your mind… The apostles left their father, left their boat, left all their riches of that time; they abandoned the world and its countless riches; they renounced all that they owned. However, God does not consider the mass of riches, but rather the soul of the person who renounces them. Those people who left only a few things would also have renounced a large fortune if the need had arisen.