My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
Today’s readings, as we just heard, from Sacred Scripture are about the vocation of the apostles and our vocation.
Jesus is still at the beginning of his public life in St. Mark’s Gospel. As we heard, the first thing that he does is call his apostles.
And as we know, everyone in the Church has a vocation, a calling from Jesus Christ.
The words of Jesus that we have just heard in our Gospel today are addressed to every one of us: Come after me! Follow me!
The call of Jesus is simple and beautiful. It is really only those two words that he speaks to us — to you, and to me. To every person in every time and place: Follow me! In a sense, the meaning of our lives is measured by how we respond to those two words.
For all of us — the encounter with Jesus Christ is a calling to conversion. As we heard in the Gospel, the call from Jesus is to repent and believe in the Gospel. It is a calling to change our lives, to believe in his teachings, and to follow him.
It is always a personal call. Jesus calls each of us by name — just as we heard him call Simon and Andrew, James and John in our Gospel reading today.
Because God does not look at the human race as just a group of people. He knows each one of us. He loves each one of us personally. From all eternity, he created each of us — for a reason, for a special vocation, for a particular way of following Jesus in our lives.
Some of us he calls to the great adventure of the priesthood. Others he calls to the religious or the consecrated life. Others he calls to the ministry of service as deacons.
But most people are called to follow Jesus in the middle of the world. This is all of you, my dear brothers and sisters.
This is the dignity and duty of your vocation as the lay faithful.
Jesus is calling each one of you to follow him in the ordinary circumstances of your daily lives — in your homes and families, in your professional work, in all of your contributions to the economic, cultural and political life of our society. In your ordinary daily life.
So for each one of you, and for all of us, everyone here today — our Christian vocation is a call from Jesus that also has a mission to change the world.
It’s exciting. It’s a beautiful adventure! Just like the apostles.
God is sending us out into the world, just as we heard in today’s first reading that he sent Jonah to the great city of Nineveh. He is sending us, all of us, out there to be fishers as Jesus called the apostles in the Gospel today.
Jesus calls each one of us for a reason. To be God’s messengers in the world. Each of us in our own way, in our own place.
Because our lives are different, the way we are called to follow Christ will be different.
There are many paths, many callings. But the call of Jesus is always a call to share in his mission.
So whatever you are. Wherever God has placed you, he is calling each one of you — all of us — to share the good news of God’s love and mercy and to bring others to know God’s love.
So our faith — believing in Jesus, listening to his call — makes all of us missionaries —as Pope Francis likes to say, “missionary disciples.” It’s said the Pope said, “Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus.”
And he went on to say that we no longer say that we are disciples and missionaries but rather that we are always missionary disciples.
So like Jonah and like the apostles, we all are called to turn our society back to God — heart by heart, one person at a time.
It is just a beautiful call, a beautiful mission of the new evangelization of our society. Does that mean we have to leave everything and just dedicate ourselves to preach the Gospel?
Ordinarily the call that we receive is just to be who we are, and through our example and our daily life, help people to see the beauty of God’s love in our lives to the point that they get interested and think: I want to be like this person. Like all of you. Because this person reflects the life of Jesus Christ.
So the best way that we have in order to really become missionary disciples is trying to imitate the life of Jesus, by trying to live as he did and treating others, as he did, with dignity and love.
St. Paul, in the second reading of today’s Mass, tells us — that the time is running out and that the world in its present form is passing away.
Those are strong words. St. Paul is trying to remind us that we should have a sense of urgency in following Jesus.
We saw the example and we know the example of the apostles in the passage of the Gospel today — they heard the call of Jesus and immediately they abandoned their nets and followed him.
So, my brothers and sisters, we have to ask ourselves: What else can we do? Jesus is calling me, I’ve got to say, yes, I want to follow you!
It’s interesting because today it is the feast of the conversion of St. Paul. Every year on today, January 25th, we celebrate the conversion of St. Paul.
Today, because it is Sunday, Sunday proceeds that celebration so we have the ordinary Sunday Mass. But we all remember St. Paul’s encounter with Jesus, don’t we? Jesus asking him:
Why are you persecuting me?
And St. Paul saying, “Who are you?” And Jesus telling him: “I am Jesus, who you are persecuting.” And Jesus said to St. Paul, “Now get up, and go to the city and you will be told what you must do.”
And as we all know he had a conversion, changed his life and became the Apostle of the Gentiles. And he really went out and changed the world.
That’s our vocation, my brothers and sisters. In the simple, ordinary way that we do things, we have to change the world.
So today in our Eucharistic celebration let us renew our commitment to be apostles. To go with Jesus. To follow Jesus. And to share in his mission — with new enthusiasm and new excitement.
And let us not forget that to follow Jesus means walking in his footsteps. So we should try to know his life better, especially reading the Gospels. Today, let me especially suggest, to find the time every day to read one chapter of the Gospels.
And this year, in the liturgy of the Church in Sunday Mass, we are reading St. Mark’s Gospel. So there you have it, every day, five minutes that we can read one chapter of St. Mark’s Gospel. That would really help us to look at Jesus every day, to follow him, and to try to imitate him in our daily life.
As Pope Francis also says when he talks about being missionary disciples, saying that we all have to do it. He says that we all have to be engaged, and he says, “So what are we waiting for?”
So today, I think the reading of the Mass are asking us that question: what are we waiting for? Let’s get involved!
Let’s really try to be missionary disciples in the simplicity of our ordinary life.
And may Mary, our Blessed Mother, give all of us the strength to follow Jesus her son — as the apostles did. Holy Mary, Queen of the Apostles, pray for us.
1. Readings (Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B): Jon. 3:1-5, 10; Ps. 25:4-9; 1 Cor. 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20.