One of the special joys of raising children is hearing the first word the infant speaks. So often, the word is garbled as the little one is just learning to form sounds and we react with excitement to that which is almost intelligible without truly being so. When the infant sees and hears our reaction to this “accident” it is encouraged to repeat it and so begins the process of learning to communicate.
Jesus is an adult in today’s Gospel and is long past that learning-to-talk stage of life but we need to notice these “first words” that Mark has Jesus speaking as he begins His ministry; they are words that the chosen people have waited to hear for centuries; they are words that should perk up ears and cause people to take notice of this new preacher who has just entered human history. They are words of Joy… but with a challenge attached to them.
Anticipation and Expectation are two dangerous modes of attitude. They can easily lead to disappointment, like when a new quarterback comes to town and does not fulfill our expectations. OK, it’s a poor analogy but to appreciate today’s Gospel we need to recognize that the Son of God was not The Messiah that people anticipated for centuries. Instead of giving them all the things for which they longed, His first-words challenges them: “Repent, and Believe.”
Mark gives little detail in his narratives, so we are left to ponder what Simon, Andrew, James and John saw in Jesus or heard in His voice that made them leave their life’s work immediately, and follow Him. We know His words had power. He calmed the sea, expelled demons, healed the sick, raised the dead, forgave sins, chastised the Pharisees and Scribes, all with His words. He spoke with Authority. Even now, His first-words mark the beginning of our own lives of Faith: “Repent and Believe.”