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Today, we begin a continuous reading of Mark's Gospel that will carry us through this segment
of the liturgical season of Ordinary Time. Remember that in Cycle B of the Lectionary, most of the
Gospel readings are taken from the Gospel according to Mark. The Gospel of Mark does not begin
with a narrative about Jesus' birth. Instead Mark begins by reporting on the preaching of John the
Baptist. John is described as the voice in the wilderness sent to prepare the way of the Lord.
Immediately after describing the work of John the Baptist, Mark reports on Jesus' baptism and his
temptation in the desert. Jesus' public ministry begins after the arrest of John the Baptist. Mark
wants his readers to understand the important connection between the end of the ministry of John
the Baptist and the beginning of Jesus' own ministry. As we learn at the beginning of today's Gospel
reading, Jesus preaches the Kingdom of God in continuity with the preaching of John the Baptist.
Like John the Baptist, Jesus' pronouncement of the kingdom is a call to repentance. Yet Jesus'
preaching is greater than John's. Jesus begins the time of fulfilment; the Kingdom of God is already
here. This will be demonstrated again and again, both in Jesus' words and in the actions that follow.
Jesus' healings and forgiveness of sins are signs of the Kingdom of God that he announces in his
teaching. In contrast to last week's Gospel, in Mark's Gospel Jesus takes the initiative in calling his
first disciples. As mentioned last week, it was more typical of first-century rabbinical schools for
students to seek out rabbis, asking to be their disciples. In Mark's Gospel, Jesus breaks with this
tradition and invites his disciples to learn from him. Jesus is said to have first called four
fishermen—Simon, Andrew, James, and John. Simon and Andrew are brothers. Jesus promises
that he will make them “fishers of men.” James and John are also brothers. Mark does not report
Jesus' words of invitation to them, but he does report that they left their fishing immediately; their
father, Zebedee, was left behind in the boat. Mark's Gospel is told with a great sense of urgency and
immediacy. Jesus is a person of action, and events occur in rapid succession. We see this in
today's Gospel. Time is of the essence; the fishermen immediately put aside their livelihood to
become Jesus' disciples. The Kingdom of God is here and now. The time of fulfilment is at hand.
How might our lives be different if we more fully shared this sense of the immediacy of God's