ST. MARK tells us that John the Baptist has just been arrested. It is a tense situation for Jesus, a crisis situation. Anyone connected to John should have reason to be afraid, to lay low, to preempt danger. Who knows if the authorities might already be preparing a crackdown on all others associated with John? Jesus happens to be one of them. He makes a judgment call; instead of hiding, he comes out and begins his public ministry. He calls it the PROPER TIME, the TIME OF FULFILLMENT. He has the option to save his skin; but his judgment call is to sustain the mission of John.
The image that I get is that of the symbolic Olympic torch being carried by a runner up to a certain point where he passes it on. John carried the torch; now he has passed it on to Jesus. Will he go for it and end up like John? Or will he run away from it like the prophet Jonah did, at first?
And so, Jesus decides to leave Nazareth, his mother, his family, his work as a carpenter and settle in Capernaum by the sea to begin his public life. The irony of it is, he proclaims a good news in the midst of a bad news. Not only does he go for it; he invites several others to go with him. And his invitation comes with a sense of urgency.
He calls fishermen who are busy, either casting or mending their nets. And these men also make a judgment call; they leave behind their boats, their nets and their families, and they follow Jesus.
We are presently in the midst of a crisis situation ourselves. Our normal routines have been interrupted. And we are being forced by circumstances to decide on a lot of things: studies, work, relationship, business, family, etc. We also need to make “judgment calls.” This, by the way, is the literal meaning of KRISIS in Greek: judgment. It is a call for a new judgment. It is a kind of make or break; your decision can lead to a breakdown. But it can also lead to a breakthrough.
In a tennis game, if the referee did not see exactly what happened, he is expected to follow his instincts and decide anyway. That is what people call a “judgment call.” It is not exactly a blind decision; he will rely on his subjective knowledge of the players. He has to have good discernment to be able to come up with a good judgment call.
Discernment requires a good deal of processing and understanding of experience. It is a necessary step in making a judgment and coming up with a decision on the proper course of action.
Sometimes, when the call involves too much risk, instead of responding, some people decide to run away. That is the case with Jonah in the first reading, Jonah’s immediate reaction: he goes the opposite direction. Moses did it too when he withdrew into Midian. Discernment is not possible unless we decide first of all to confront reality head-on, not escape from it.
Decision-making is a response to the invitation to make a commitment, to be ready for the sacrifice, to be willing to change course and leave certain things behind. In our second reading, Paul speaks about the many things that we often use as excuses to making a decision: our many affairs in this world—having a wife, grieving a loss, celebrating, owning properties. But he reminds us that the call is about seeking eternity in the midst of passing things.
(Homily for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, January 24, 2021, Mk 1:14-20)