FATHER WALTER NOLTE: What accepting Jesus’ call to discipleship means
January 21, 2021
‘Repent and believe in the gospel.’ These are the first words out of the mouth of Jesus in his inaugural address to people gathered by the Sea of Galilee as recorded in the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark.
Jesus immediately calls them to change the way they were living their lives, urging them to a radical conversion of heart: a metanoia. We also hear him specifically invite Simon, Andrew, James and John to an even deeper calling to be his disciples. His preaching inspires an immediate response from these four fishermen to do just that. They leave everything behind, follow him along the way, and learn from his example of holiness.
This invitation, though, brings us to a place of interior questioning. What does it mean for us to repent and believe in the Gospel? To repent means that we acknowledge our sinfulness and make a decisive change in the direction our lives are going if that direction is leading us away from the love of God. We exercise the gift of our free will and choose to ask for forgiveness for our sins, trusting in the ocean of mercy that Jesus offers each one of us from the Cross.
To believe in the Gospel, or the Good News, means we choose to no longer seek comfort and solace in things of the world. We choose, instead, to ground ourselves and our identity in the love of Jesus. To believe in the Gospel means that we live in the confidence that the words Jesus spoke then are just as true for us today as they were when he first uttered them.
Jesus’ call to conversion started a revolution of love in a world wearied by sin. He is still calling disciples today to gather around him and to live the message he first preached by the Sea of Galilee. He is still inviting souls to abandon themselves to his mercy and to live the good news. The power of his love can do infinitely more in us than we can ever dream or imagine.
The time to respond to his call is now, not tomorrow. Take courage, for the Master is calling you.
Father Walter Nolte is pastor of St. Patrick Parish and president of Archbishop Bergan Catholic Schools in Fremont.