Third Sunday in Ordinary Time | Year B
After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the Good News from God. ‘The time has come,’ he said ‘and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.’
As he was walking along by the Sea of Galilee he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net in the lake – for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you into fishers of men.’ And at once they left their nets and followed him.
Going on a little further, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they too were in their boat, mending their nets. He called them at once and leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the men he employed, they went after him.
Simon and Andrew were casting their nets; James and John were mending their nets. They had probably been involved in making the nets as well, learning these skills as children working with fathers, uncles and other family members.
The two sets of brothers had been through years of formation in order to be fishermen. It was a very natural process, learning from relatives the skills and insights needed to participate in the family business.
As they went off with Jesus they were entering a new period of formation. They were to be fishers but of a different kind, bringing people to Jesus instead of bringing fish to shore. They spent several years in the company of Jesus, watching him as they had watched the fathers who taught them to fish, listening to Jesus and trying to make sense of the often startling things he said. The brothers had moments of great insight and times when they struggled with the lessons. Their greatest struggle was to come with the crucifixion and the resurrection.
We should not under-estimate the value of preparation and formation. We do preparation, finding ways to learn and equip ourselves with skills for the tasks we perceive Jesus calls us to. But it is Jesus who forms us, shaping us for our role in his mission. We cooperate with his formation – if we are busy directing or organizing our own formation then we have missed the point. Jesus forms us because only he knows who we really are and what role he wants us to play in his mission.
Preparation is good because it indicates our willingness to be engaged in the works of the Lord. But the real grace lies in being open to formation by Jesus, allowing him to lead and to bring us into those places where we will be changed by what we experience.
Being open to the unique and lifelong formation which only Jesus can offer us requires letting go, a relaxation of control over our lives so that he might do his work in us. It is a layered process, occurring again and again at different and deeper levels.
The first step is the same as that of the brother fishermen – we make the decision to follow Jesus. It is an act of faith that will need to be repeated again and again, because we will never really know what is around the next corner in his formation process.
But whatever it is, it will be the very best thing for us.