We are all familiar with the phrase ‘time is of the essence.’ Today’s readings certainly invite us to ponder some issues around time. There is no doubt that neither Jonah nor Paul knew the well-worn phrase, ‘the window of opportunity’, but they had the concept it carries down pat. Jonah came with great urgency, warning the people of Nineveh that they had only forty days to get their act together. Otherwise, a great disaster would befall them. Paul, familiar with persecution, warned the Corinthians that time was running out, and so they better hold off on ‘business as usual’. For him the world in the form he knew it was passing away.
Jesus had a different view of time. He came announcing the Good News of God. For him the time was fulfilled. We might say it was bursting with energy and opportunity, because God’s reign was at hand. The window was not closing down. Rather it was being flung wide open so that all could repent and believe the Gospel that he was proclaiming – the Gospel of God.
The Gospel of God, which Jesus proclaimed, necessitated the passing of the old religious and theological order for the believer. A new day, bright with hope, was surely dawning. The coming of Jesus, known as a carpenter, preaching a message of God, was surely something new. There had been prophets in the past right down to John the Baptist who offered both hope and warnings. They stood apart. Jesus, on the other hand, drew a community towards him to spread the good news of God’s reign.
And whom did he draw? The ones we meet today were fishermen, probably pretty ‘un-templed’ as we might consider someone un-churched today. This too was a new way. A carpenter and some fishermen! Who in their right theological senses could take them seriously? But the Gospel of Mark tells us, that in this fulfilled time, Jesus came with the Good News of God. To these fishermen he offered a mission that they might become fishers of people. In order to accomplish this mission their fisherman qualities would be invaluable. Those who fish usually know the time and place where a catch is possible. They know long hours of work, often at night, and they know long hours of waiting and apparent idleness when conditions are not favorable. They have the qualities of patience and silence. They can deal with disappointment one day and try again the next day. Such qualities Jesus knew were essential for those who would be ‘fishers of people’.
In the reign of God, each moment is a fulfilled time. There is never a ‘too late’ or a lost opportunity. The call is always given to us, whether late or early in the day, to be fishers of people by using the qualities we have. Jesus is neither limited by our perspectives nor our time constraints. His vision is open to the now.
When I watch a sunset and think about the folding up of another day, I am always reminded that from another perspective that very same event is a new day dawning in the face of someone else, and I am simply resting for a while.
Elizabeth Ferguson, OP