The Jews of old so reverenced the Holy Name of God that they were reluctant to speak it directly. They resorted to circumlocution. Instead of identifying God as "God" they would attribute Divine presence or action to: "The power of God...the breath of God...the angel of God." Everyone knew what was really meant so that when Jesus spoke of "the kingdom of God" or "the kingdom of heaven", most of His hearers knew that He was simply speaking of God.
And so when He told them that the kingdom of God was at hand and the time had come to repent, He might just as well of said, at least in terms of accuracy: "Rethink your lives because God is here among you. Put God into the equation of your life now! Remove yourself from the centre of your vision and put God there instead. God alone must be the source of your motivation and the goal of your action."
That is what repentance and reformation mean in the context of the incarnation. They mean becoming God centred or, in other words, recognizing that God is that without which your life is, quite simply, absurd and futile...leaving you to sing the saddest song I know, "Is that all there is?" I do not mean to suggest that we do not have some great days, meaningful relationships or proud moments; but the fact remains that, when all is said and done, the theme song for the vast majority of the world's population, rich and poor alike, remains "Is that all there is?"
I wonder if this has something to do with the destructive drive, so rampant in our families, to control, to make others do it our way, to establish the operating parameters and priorities of other people's lives so as to make us feel more significant more at the centre, a centre that belongs to God alone.
It appears that Peter, Andrew, James and John had heard Jesus preach this simple but dramatic concept of a God centred life. Now had they been particularly interested in what they had heard, the normal thing would have been for them to approach Him for further discussion or instruction. Students chose Rabbis. Not the other way around. But in this case Jesus clearly took the initiative. They, in their turn, followed Him, not because they liked his program. Not because they liked His style of preaching, nor because they saw Him as some kind of role model. They followed Him because they had been called by the Son of God...the Lord of Life. His call was, in itself, a most extraordinary experience. They did not know Him as God, but certainly as being "of God." They sensed that God was touching His people through this man and they were right!
The Kingdom of Heaven was at hand. Their encounter with Him led them to follow Him. Where to and to what end, they had only the vaguest idea.
The same dynamic is at work today. He continues to call to Religious life, to Priesthood, to Discipleship, to Marriage, to celibacy and to service at every level; but above all, to a God centred life.
Pope John Paul has expressed it this way. "If we wish to understand this community of the people of God, we must first see Christ saying to each individual day after day, "Follow me...come follow me and I will make you a good man, a good woman, a good child. I will make you more effective, more complete, more at peace."
An old priest, close to death, was asked when he decided to be a priest. His answer? ..."This morning!"