In recent weeks we’ve been wondering what it’s like when God comes among us as a human being: as a tiny child at Christmas, as an adult now in these weeks of Ordinary Time.
It’s a great gift given to us to meet the maker of the universe dwindled to infancy, vulnerable and frail. But Jesus is a gift that calls for a response on our part. Last week we heard John’s story of how the first disciples responded to Jesus by seeking him out and spending time with him, just hanging out. They became disciples slowly and gently as Jesus answered a mystery in them.
The Jesus who appears today in Mark’s gospel is not the same. He is all mystery and challenge. This Jesus walks in from the desert with startling words: “This is the time of fulfillment: the reign of God is at hand.” This Jesus makes blunt demands upon his hearers: “Reform your lives and believe the good news.” And the surprising thing is that he gets the response he seeks. Simon and Andrew abandon their livelihood and immediately get up and become his followers. James and John abandon their family and become part of his company. No discussion here. No afternoons slowly getting to know him. There is something about Jesus, as Mark portrays him, that lets him demand a total and instant response and get it.
What could this something be? What could persuade someone to get up and leave everything and just go off with a stranger? What did Simon and Andrew and James and John see him in? … Hard to say exactly but each must have seen in Jesus something that could change their lives completely. And not sometime, not soon, but now, right now.
I think Mark is asking us the same question. What would it take, when I’m busy in my job, to get me to walk out and leave all security behind to go off with Jesus? … What would he have to be like, to so capture your heart, that when you’re sitting at home with your family you would abandon them to walk away with him? … What could be so attractive and compelling about Jesus that we, right now, would walk out of mass just to be with him—penniless, friendless, homeless—and be about his business?
Tough questions! Maybe we can’t imagine responding like that. But that’s what Mark is asking us to do: imagine. Who would Jesus have to be, for you to leave everything for him—and gladly? That’s Mark’s question to us. He wants us to imagine a Jesus so attractive, so appealing, so compelling, … so rewarding, that we would give ourselves completely to him and his cause. Can you do that? Imagine. Can you let such an attractive Jesus walk into your imagination and draw a response from you?