CALLING, LEAVING, AND FOLLOWING

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time            

            The scene in today’s gospel narrative of Jesus calling Simon and Andrew, then James and John, is a very personal moment between themselves and the Lord Jesus. It is also a moment whose features should be part of every Christian’s life. The Lord calls the four, they leave their nets and then they follow Him. The calling, the leaving, and the following – these are three features or dimensions of every serious Christian’s life. Let us dwell on these three points…

            The first moment is the calling. As Jesus walks along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, many people are there. Out of all of them, the Lord zeroes in on Simon and Andrew, then on James and John. His eyes meet theirs and he says, “Follow me.” The Lord calls them for a purpose.

            Jesus calls each of us for a reason. According to Joseph Krempa, the call of the Lord in Baptism is not just generic but very personal. Just as we were all created for a purpose, so, each of us was called to follow Christ for a purpose: to save our soul, of course, but also for more than that.

            God calls each of us for a definite service. Cardinal John Henry Newman tells us that even our illness and affliction, difficulty and sorrow, pain and suffering can serve God’s plan. We were each created for a purpose greater than ourselves. It is a purpose greater than our own happiness and enjoyment, larger than our own fortune, prosperity and security, larger than our own success, fame and glory, larger even than our own welfare and salvation.

            We were called in Baptism for a purpose that nobody else can accomplish in quite the same way. Each of us has a story of our life, a journey to make, a call to answer that is uniquely our own. Jesus calls each of us individually and personally as surely as he called Simon and Andrew, James and John. And he calls us for a reason.

            The second moment is the leaving. Upon hearing the call of Jesus, Simon and Andrew, James and John leave their nets. 

            To follow Jesus, we too have to leave behind the ‘nets’ that entangle us, burden us and ensnare us. We have to leave these ‘nets’ for us to be able to follow Jesus. We have to free, untie or emancipate ourselves from the entanglement in the net of something. It can be the net of our wealth, power, and social status. It can be the net of our cluttered and complicated life. It can be the net of our self-centeredness and selfish ambition. It can be the net of our security blankets and comfort zones. It can be the net of our attachment to certain persons and things.

            The third moment is the following. The gospel says, “Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.” Jesus asks us to leave everything that hinders us from following him

            What does “following Jesus” mean for you? For you as spouse: What do you have to leave to be more faithful to your wife or husband and to be more devoted to your family? For you as a professional: What do you have to leave to turn your profession into your way of responding to the call to serve more than to earn a living? For you as a businessman: What do you have to leave to make the building of the kingdom of God and the promotion of its values as your main business? For you as a politician: What do you have to leave to make yourself a true public servant, stripped of any vested or selfish interest? For you as OLMM parishioner: What do you have to leave to be more generous in sharing your time, talent and treasure at the service of our parish and its pastoral programs? What do you have to leave to follow Jesus more closely, more freely, more faithfully?

            Today’s gospel shows us that the ones who hear the call, leave their nets and follow Jesus are given a new mission, new seas to sail on, deeper purpose for their lives. For us, to follow Jesus is not a matter of leaving family, livelihood or residence. It is a matter of leaving behind a way of living. And that is far more difficult.

            May we hear the Lord Jesus telling each of us: “Come after me… Come follow me… I want to recreate you… I want to form you again according to God’s image and likeness… I want you to be completely like me – thinking as I think, acting as I act, living as I live, loving as I love. I want you to be a living image of God’s love.” “Come after me, I will make you fishers of men.”   

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