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Gospel for Sunday, January 21: Mark 1:14-20

III Sunday B

14 After John was arrested, Jesus went to Galilee preaching the gospel of God and said, 15 “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel.”

16 Passing along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew, Simon’s brother, casting their nets into the sea; for they were fishermen. 17 Jesus said to them, “Follow me; I will make you fishers of men.” 18 And immediately, having left their nets, they followed him. 19 Going a little further, he also saw James of Zebedee and John his brother in the boat as they were rearranging the nets. 20 He called them. And they, having left their father Zebedee in the boat with the bondsmen, followed him.

Mk 1:14-20

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather ( Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.

The Old Testament having been fulfilled with the death of John the Baptist, Jesus began his preaching and began it in Galilee.

For some exegetes, Mark’s Gospel is a Galilaic Gospel, that is, written for the churches that were in Galilee, or for the benefit of the Jerusalem church that, after the persecution in the 70s, dispersed into Galilee.

Galilee is the land with which the Gospel opens and closes, for Jesus will say, “When I am resurrected, you will see me in Galilee” (Mark 14:28). Galilee is the main theater of Jesus’ activity:

a) a land bordering pagans: it was called “Galilea gentium,” “Galilee of the Gentiles,” because it was in contact with all the pagan peoples: those of today’s Lebanon, Syria, Jordan. It was a land of exchange, so it was a land considered unclean because if Jews touched a pagan they were unclean, and they had to do ablutions, immerse themselves, and comply with various other requirements to regain purity.

So the people of Galilee were always unclean, they could never enter the Temple, never pray, because the pagans had them in their homes and of necessity they had to deal with them,

talk together, live elbow to elbow. So it was a land of the poor, the defiled, the despised. It was the land of the last, it was the land of the “pariahs,” the excluded. In this land Jesus begins his preaching, and the disciples will leave from there to preach.

b) it is a “hot” land: there were religious movements, there were revolutionary movements, it was a land of struggle. Jesus had in his little group some, we might say, “extremists.” For example, Judas Iscariot, that is, the man of the iskar, the man of the “dagger”: Judas was one who went around armed. Peter himself on the night of Getzemane drew his sword and with one clean stroke took away the ear of the High Priest’s servant. James and John were called boanerghès, “sons of thunder,” or “sons of tumult”-probably a figure of speech to indicate their membership in a revolutionary movement. Jesus also took with him “hotheads” who saw in him the triumphant Messiah, the mighty and glorious Messiah: they would all flee, for they would say at the time of the cross, “You have betrayed us: we believed that you rebuilt the Kingdom of Israel” (Acts 1:6).

In this land of the last, the despised, and even the “extremists,” Jesus announces, “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” In ancient Semitism, the Kingdom of God is a circumlocution to indicate that God is near. This is the object of the Good News: God is near. This is the news that announces peace, happiness, salvation.

The only condition to enter this joy is, “Be converted, change your life, and believe the Gospel!” To have God with you you must change your life and attach yourself to the Gospel. This Gospel is Jesus Christ. It is Jesus Christ the glad tidings. Jesus Christ is the God who is near. Jesus Christ is the Kingdom of God near us. So we have to convert, that is to do half-noia, turn our lives 180 degrees, that is to turn toward him and rely on him.

Jesus then calls the first disciples: four fishermen, while they are working. God’s call always comes to us unexpectedly, surprising. God seizes us while we are immersed in daily life: so it was for Moses who was a shepherd (Ex 3), for Gideon the farmer (Jd 6), for Saul the donkey maker (1 Sam 9), for Amos (Am 1) and David (1 Sam 16) the herdsmen, shepherds. Vocation is never created by us: it is God who calls us, it is God who comes to elect us in a surprising and unexpected way. Following is not a conquest: it is being conquered, it is being taken, being chosen by Jesus.

Two notes:

a) Jesus is the only Rabbi, of whom it is known in the history of Judaism, that he chose his disciples. Even now, it is always the disciples who choose themselves a Rabbi, a teacher. To understand, it would be as if we are not the ones who choose whether to go to scientific high school, classical school, or surveyor or various vocational institutes… No! Here it is the Headmaster who calls you and says, “Come!”

b) The Word of Christ is powerful: it always comes true. This whole section is just under this sign. The dominant theme is the authoritative Word of Jesus, authoritative in working and teaching. Let us be seduced by this Word, which alone is “Gospel,” Joyful News.

Happy Mercy to all!

Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at


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