Commentary by Fr Donagh O’Shea OP, www.goodnews.ie
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea – for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
In all three readings at today’s Mass there is a sense of time running out. “Only forty more days…” shouted Jonah (1st reading). “Our time is growing short,” wrote Paul (2nd reading). “The time has come,” said Jesus (gospel reading).
Everything in this world is transitory. We are not the first people in the world to think that everything is changing and that nothing remains the same. An ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, writing about 500 B.C., said, “Everything changes and nothing remains the same…. You cannot step twice in the same river, for the waters are perpetually flowing upon you….” When modern humans first arrived in Europe 40,000 years ago they found a population of Neanderthals who had already been living there for a quarter of a million years. They were human beings, but there is no evidence that they experienced much change during the course of all those millennia. But we have the change bug. Since Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock in the 1960s and his Third Wave a decade later, we have come to realise more fully that change feeds on itself: not only is change accelerating but the rate of acceleration is accelerating. Most of our new inventions (and not only computers) are in the service of greater speed.
But it is important to remember that change has always been happening for modern humans. ‘Modern’ doesn’t just mean ‘post-1960’! Jesus lived in tumultuous times, and his country was one of the cross-roads of the world. The people were on fire with revolutionary ideas. Into this atmosphere Jesus announced, “The time has come!” There is a kind of breathless haste in Mark’s gospel. He tells the story as a child in crisis might. Phrases like ‘straightaway’ and ‘immediately’ occur almost 30 times; in chapter 3 there are 34 phrases and sentences one after another beginning with ‘and’. He also loves to use the ‘historic present’: “Jesus sends two disciples and says to them…” (11:1-2). (This is not always preserved in translations.) The cumulative effect of this is a feeling that there is no time to waste.
No people were ever so well-placed as we are to realise that “the time is short,” “the time is come.” But what are we rushing towards? What is the future into which we are accelerating? For many, it is a launch into nowhere; it is like those expensive rockets into empty space. We are not so much intent on getting somewhere as on getting away. On the grand scale, when Iraq or Syria become unthinkable we think about Mars. On the small scale, when we get bored at home we go somewhere “just to get away.” We have never had such capabilities of moving and changing, but we don’t know where we are going, or why we should go anywhere.
As in last Sunday’s readings, the question the Lord would ask us is, “What are you looking for?”