Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jan 20, 2021 | Gospel Reflections

Mark 1: 14-20 – Sister Agnes Nelson, SNDdeN

In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus proclaiming that the kingdom of God is close at hand and we then see him calling his first disciples. I think these two incidents are intrinsically linked.

The first call of the Apostles was I am sure an experience of anticipation and excitement. Something new was happening. They left their home, they followed Jesus. In the years to follow that “call” led them to a new way of life, to new values. I am sure they never anticipated that women would be part of their group: this would be a cultural shift for them. The same with children: they were of little importance as is evidence by their attempt to keep them from going to Jesus but Jesus had different ideas: “Let the children come to me, do not stop them for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” How embarrassed they were with lepers and blind people making a move to get close to Jesus but again they were learning – slowly – that Jesus’ idea was that those who were excluded were the very ones that had something to teach them. I wonder how long it took them to feel comfortable in the presence of Matthew, the tax collector, an outcast to the Jews and despised by them?

The kingdom Jesus came to bring was turning their cultural and religious values upside down. It took beyond the Resurrection for them to really understand this message.

We too have all been called by Jesus but it is the on-going call to be faithful and responsive that is still challenging. Many of our cultural and religious values are being turned upside down as we come to terms with living the kingdom in a post Pandemic world.

The tragedy of Covid 19 has revealed that no matter our race or religion we are all in the same boat where one person’s problems are the problems of all of us. (Fratelli Tutti 32) Our call to follow Jesus at this point in our history asks us to examine our values anew, come to a deeper awareness that we have to be more open to those from different cultures, to migrants, to disabled people because only by opening our hearts will we truly be extending the kingdom.

The call of the Apostles was not a one-off event: they were challenged again and again to go deeper, to change their values, to accept new standards.

It is true today for each one of us. Will that call lead me to a closer following of the Jesus who was a real revolutionary and who changed these simple fisher-men into fearless and enthusiastic makers of the kingdom?

A lovely poem by Harvard Thurman captures the challenge of today’s Gospel.

When the song of the angels is stilled
When the star in the sky is gone
When the Kings and the princes are home
when the shepherds are back with their flocks

The work of the Christian begins

To find the lost, to heal the broken,
To feed the hungry, to release the prisoner
to rebuild the nations, to bring peace among people
to make music in the heart.


Mark 1:14-20

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.

The Gospel of the Lord


Meet Sister Agnes Nelson, SNDdeN

Sister Agnes Nelson entered the Congregation in 1965. She taught in Primary and Secondary Schools and worked for four years in a Family Learning Unit. Then from 1983-84 she studied the SPRED Method – a catechetical programme for children and adults with developmental disabilities in Chicago. Agnes returned to Scotland and has been involved in SPRED ever since. The work is amazingly life-giving despite the uphill struggle to support these people, and their families, to take their rightful place in the parish community. Training the catechists, who are all volunteers, is a delight. Scotland has proved to be a rich soil for this ministry as SPRED is now established in five dioceses and at present there is outreach to England and Malta. Malta SPRED has now been established from Glasgow.