After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel." As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men." Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him. (Mark 1:14-20)
In today's gospel, Jesus called the first group of his disciples by the Sea of Galilee: Simon and his brother Andrew, James and his brother John, and their hired men. He told them, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of people" (Mark 1:14-20). We learned from the gospel that they immediately responded to Jesus' invitation by abandoning their nets and following him. Jesus, the carpenter, was from a small and insignificant village of Nazareth. "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" (John 1:46). Jesus moved to Capernaum, a large Galilean fishing village and a busy trading center on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus made Capernaum his home during the years of his ministry. "Leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum" (Matthew 4:13). Peter, Andrew, James and John were fishermen also living in Capernaum.
Jesus invited the fishermen to follow him and according to the gospel, they abandoned their nets and together with their hired men (migrant workers) followed Jesus. Can we abandon our livelihood and follow an itinerant preacher? Aren't we risking too much? Isn't walking out of our jobs and families an irresponsible thing to do?
J. Pilch of Georgetown University noted that Jesus and his first group of followers were "not strangers."
"It is highly likely that Jesus and the four followers he summons here are not strangers. If they have not personally met each other before this time, they were aware of each other's aspirations and objectives. News traveled quickly in the ancient world thanks to gossip networks." Jesus called us to repentance but added that we must believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15). Jesus' invitation is not to follow him passively or blindly but a total conversion of heart, mind and spirit. Conversion means our freedom, joyful and active participation in the Reign of God. Conversion is not just our turning around and reforming our lives but our acceptance to enter the Reign of God in the here and now.
Jesus is asking for a commitment from us today. "This is the time of fulfillment" (Mark 1:15). To believe in the gospel is to know and learn what is in the gospel. Let us nourish our souls by reading, studying, meditating and reflecting on, and sharing with one another the good news of our salvation. Bible Week is scheduled from January 23 to 29. Let us accept Jesus' invitation to believe in the gospel. "People shall not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4).
Sometimes, migrants, blinded by their relationships in Taiwan, "abandon" their families. It's the same old story of co-workers and friends finding "love" in Taiwan. Later on, one of them would confess to the fact that he or she is already married with children. We will find ourselves in a bind; our minds and hearts torn between our "only in Taiwan" affairs and our families back home. Sometimes, we choose our Taiwan partners and abandon our families. Jesus is also calling us to conversion. I hope that this call to repentance will convince us that it is time to go home, and be reunited with our spouses and children.
(This is a continuation of Father Joy's piece on the Feast of the Infant Jesus. In last Sunday's column, Father Joy drew a comparison between God's "anawin" or the "little ones" and the often "visible but not heard" migrant caregivers and home managers.)
"Father Joy, good evening. I have gotten to know you through the Taiwan News. I discovered your 'Joy to the World' column on January 1. Your article has inspired me much! I'm also glad that you have disclosed your cell phone number. I am Rochelle. Father, I am humbly asking for your help. Please include me in your prayers. I hope God will grant me patience. I have three employers and two elderly patients who both need 24-hour care. I have been working here for almost eight months. Taiwan is my first overseas posting. I have no day off. How I wish I could attend Mass on my day off - if my employers would ever grant me that. I also wish I will be able to finish my contract. Thank you Father and Happy New Year!"
(Rochelle, I am printing your text message so that our Taiwanese friends and other well-meaning individuals can hear your cry for help. I am also appealing to our government officials and to the Taiwan government to address your situation. To force someone to work 24/7 is against the spirit of Taiwan's labor law and the international law. Your employer and broker must know that they are violating your labor contract by giving you too many employers. You are not asking for too much. You are only asking for a day off. You are right, you will be needing all the patience that you could muster to finish your contract. God bless you. - Father Joy)
Jesus is upset about Rochelle's working and living conditions. Jesus is mad at us - government officials, citizens, advocates, church leaders and fellow migrants - because we are slow, indifferent, and unconcerned about the current situation of Taiwan's migrants.
Jesus is saying, "Let the little ones - migrants - come to me, do not prevent them. For the Reign of God belongs to such as these." He will then embrace migrants and bless them.
May the Santo Nino, patron of the little ones, protect you and strengthen your hope for a better tomorrow.
Fiestas in honor of the Santo Nino are celebrated in the Philippines. Here is a partial list of those festivals:
Sinulog is celebrated every third Sunday of January. It is Cebu's biggest and most popular festival. The feast is in honor of the Holy Image of Senor Santo Nino de Cebu. Fiesta Senor, as it is widely known, is the most celebrated among Cebu's festival where people converge along the routes of a grand solemn procession.
Ati-Atihan in Kalibo, Aklan is held every third week of January. It is called "ati-atihan" because Aklanons, and domestic and foreign tourists wipe soot on their faces and wear ethnic paraphernalia. They masquerade around town as Negritos and dance in the streets to the beat of ambulant ethnic troubadours.
On January 30 in Malolos, Bulacan, a fiesta featuring exhibits and a parade showcasing more than a hundred Santo Ninos is held.
Dinagyang is scheduled from January 22 to January 23 in Iloilo City.
Ibajay Ati-Ati Municipal and Devotional Fiesta is scheduled from January 24 to January 25 in Ibajay, Aklan.
Hinirugyaw Festival is scheduled from January 30 to February 6 in Calinog, Iloilo. An annual festivity of Calinog's devotion to the Santo Nino, this nine-day event consists of an opening salvo, food festival, and a "live" Santo Nino contest among boys under the age of seven.
You are invited to the Couples for Christ and Singles for Christ seminar from January 28 to January 30 at the Ugnayan Migrant and Immigrant Center in Tantzu, Taichung County. The speakers are Mr. and Mrs. Elmer and Evelyn Anonuevo, Eldrin Jay Apolinario, and Cristina Gayamat. They are members of the CFC and SFC in Hong Kong and the Philippines. Couples for Christ is a movement intended for the renewal and strengthening of Christian family life. Singles for Christ aims to provide a Christian support environment for single men and women who are on the crossroads of life - choosing between marriage, a religious vocation, or single blessedness. SFC is now established throughout the Philippines and in many countries around the world.
The El Shaddai Taichung Community is holding a "Life in the Spirit" seminar from January 31 to February 1 at Ugnayan. For information, call 0930-44-6060 or 0916-625-779.
Father Joy is a Kabayan guest columnist. You may text him at 0930-44-6060 or write him at Chilin Rd., Lane 14, No. 3, Taipei 104. You may also email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.