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 people.’ 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. (Mark 1:14-20 – Gospel of the 3rd Sunday Year B)
This moment of “acceptance” takes place on the shore, not in a church. Jesus leads it with his own words that challenge and expand the vision of all four men: use your skills and experience to pull drowning people from the sea of chaos and destruction… Follow me! The word penetrates the mundane reality (sternly overcast by the arrest of John) with a promise of joy and fulfilment – a true presentation of the Good News. And close friends and family are quietly present to witness the life changing commitment of these four men to accept the gospel in the person of Jesus. By doing that, they place themselves under the sign of the cross too.
We know nothing about the brothers’ period of “precatechumenate” from this Gospel. Had they ever encountered Jesus before he called them? The Gospel of John suggests so. Had they listened to his call to repentance and faith? Possibly only to John’s. However, their names are now well “registered” (Simon, Andrew, James and John) as part of the Good News – as are the names of catechumens after the rite of acceptance. From now on they are all part of the household of Christ. Now, when they made a public and decisive step of leaving everything and following Jesus, the disciples are embarking on their own period of “catechumenate”. A period of being with and echoing the Word made flesh deep in their being, and of mirroring Jesus’ attitudes and actions as closely as the Spirit makes possible.
How do we know when people are ready to move to the catechumenate? We need to look just as Jesus did. The time is ready when they demonstrate stirrings of faith and repentance, the beginnings of spiritual life based on prayer, and a growing sense of community and the church. We need those “outward indications” of people’s dispositions because they demonstrate a subtle process of change…and no one who has met God face to face remains unchanged! Nor should we…