‘Follow me and I will make you into fishers of men.’ (Mark 1:17)
Today's Gospel presents us with a simple story - the call of the disciples Peter and Andrew, and James and John. Two sets of brothers. Four manual labourers, four workmen. Four people who were no doubt skilled at their work, but probably otherwise uneducated. And as we know from elsewhere, they were direct, straightforward, and sometimes hotheaded men.
And Jesus invites them: not to fame or riches. He promises not worldly status or even an easy life. He does even invite them to join a cosy community isolated from the troubles of them world.
He calls them to leave the work they know, and embark upon something they can hardly begin to understand. The only hint or inkling they can have is that in calling these two pairs of brothers, he is saying, “come and do what I do, come and call others to follow - be fishers of men, callers of humanity, gatherers of peoples”.
And so - at the very start, at the first assembling of his followers, Jesus is preparing for a time when they must take the lead. He is assembling those who must follow him in order to gather others. He is already anticipating a time when they must do this without his immediate presence - at least not present in the way he was on that day by the lake.
At the moment of the call of the very first of the apostles, he is preparing them already for his death and resurrection.
He is assembling a community, a Church, to continue his work of preaching, teaching, comforting and calling. A Church that is set to grow because its purpose is to drag others into its nets, to call others into its fellowship, to proclaim and message of hope and welcome humanity into God's love.
The Church we he forms from these few first followers becomes his body, now alive in the world.
And so he is calling us to continue his work of healing, or praying, of teaching, of loving.
It could not be expressed more beautifully than it is in words attributed to St Teresa of Avila.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
no hands but yours, no feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks with Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, by which he gives his blessing.
Prayer of St Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)