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With the Apostles on Galilee’s shore

January 23, 2015
Father Joseph Previtali

It is a beautiful nuance among the fourfold Gospel of Jesus Christ that Matthew, Mark, and Luke, after the Lord’s Baptism, relate only events from the final year of Our Lord’s earthly life, whereas John relates many events and teachings between the Baptism of the Lord and the imprisonment of John the baptist related here.

St. Bede the Venerable, the great English father and doctor of the church, reports that “when John read the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, he approved indeed the text of the history, and affirmed that they had spoken truth, but said that they had composed the history only of the one year after John was cast in prison, in which year also [Jesus] suffered.” Therefore, Bede explains, “(John) related the events of the former period, before John was cast into prison.”

We surely notice the differences between last week’s (John’s) and this week’s (Mark’s) narratives of the vocation of the Apostles. Last Sunday, we saw John’s account of the calling of the Apostles, in which St. Andrew receives the honor of being the “protokletos” (“first-called”) and that he brings his brother, Simon, to Jesus, after spending the whole day being taught by Our Lord (with the “other disciple,” likely St. John the Evangelist). Thus, John related the first calling of the Apostles, who were disciples of John the Baptist and then attached themselves to Jesus. Theophylact of Ohrid, who is a great source of the teaching of St. John Chrysostom, tells us that “(after joining themselves to Christ), grieving that John had been cast into prison, they returned to their trade.”

St. Bede explains further that the calling of Peter after the miraculous catch of fish in Luke 5:1-11 (“Lord, depart from me, for I am a sinful man”) was a second calling of these same Apostles, who “as their custom was, had returned to their fishing.” Luke relates, in fact, that they drew their boats to shore before following Jesus. Here with St. Mark “they followed the Lord, without drawing their boats ashore, (which they would have done had they meant to return), and followed him, as one calling them, and ordering them to follow.” St. Mark is relating to us this Sunday the definitive and final calling of these Apostles out of the world and into the mission of Jesus Christ.

The church thrills at the calling of these four Apostles! The scholiast in St. Jerome sings in praise of these pillars of the church, by whom “we are mystically carried away to heaven, like Elias, by this chariot, drawn by these fishers, as by four horses.” These are the “four cornerstones” upon which the church is first built, and they inspire us to leave all earthly cares and concerns, to cease living for ourselves, and to “hear the voice of the Lord,” being “clothed with those skins of Solomon, with which the bride rejoices that she has been made beautiful.”

The same scholiast teaches us: “Simon” means “obedient;” “Andrew,” “manly;” “James,” “usurper;” and “John,” “grace.” Through Simon Peter, we listen to God; through Andrew, we do battle with evil; through James, we conquer and persevere; and through John we are preserved. Here we have the four cardinal virtues personified: prudence, by which we obey God; justice, which is “righteousness” and “virtue” so called; temperance, by which we conquer the devil; and fortitude, whereby we are preserved in the grace of God.

You and I are at the shores of the Sea of Galilee right now, every day. Will we listen to Jesus, with rectitude of life, conquering and persevering? Through the intercession of these four Apostles, may we always leave everything and follow Him!

Father Previtali is parochial vicar at Our Lady of the Pillar Parish, Half Moon Bay.

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