3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Frederick Buechner, in one of his writings, talks about Christian vocation in these words: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” This is true to everyone called by the Lord to follow him.
Jesus, in today’s gospel passage, calls his first disciples: Simon, Andrew, James, and John. And they are the first ones to accept the proclamation of Jesus: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” Their response to the call to repentance and conversion is the beginning of their following of Jesus.
The vocation story of the first disciples has three components: Self-giving: To follow Jesus, Simon, Andrew, James, and John have to leave behind their nets and boats – and even their families. In other words, they left behind their livelihood and their homes. They have to give themselves to Jesus. Identification: They are given a new identity: fishers of men. With this new identity, Jesus gives them a mission. They are to be his companions in life and his partners in mission. They are now identified with Jesus. Witnessing: Being with Jesus is be an opportunity for them to get to know Jesus – the human and the divine in him. It is an opportunity to listen to him and to see great things. In turn, they are to be living witnesses of the Gospel.
The Lord is calling each one of us to follow him. Again, Christian vocation has three important components:
Christian discipleship demands a radical self-giving. Just like the first disciples, we are to leave our “nets and boats” – meaning, we must be free from everything that ties us up. We will not be able to respond to Jesus’ call to follow him if we are so caught up with our personal security and the material prosperity of our family. We will not be able to follow Jesus as long as we are attached to some persons and things. We have to constantly and honestly examine ourselves to see the things that are keeping us from following Jesus more freely, more closely, more faithfully. It is only when we have given our definitive YES to Jesus – without any reservation or condition – that we can truly follow the Lord.
Christian discipleship implies total identification with Christ. To be a follower of Christ is to be totally identified with him. Our thoughts must flow from the mind of Christ. Our words must proclaim the Gospel of Christ. Our actions must promote the saving work of Christ. Our attitudes and behaviors must manifest the love of Christ. Sad to say, there are people who seem to prefer to be identified more with the people they cling to, or with the material things they hold on to, or with their jobs, careers, professions, businesses. Some are identified as social climbers, apathetic citizens, corrupt politicians, unjust managers, professionals without social conscience. Our Christian identity has meaning only in our sharing and participating in the life and mission of Christ. Ang buhay at pamumuhay natin ay dapat nababanaagan ng buhay at pamumuhay ni Kristo. Kailangan ang ating pag-iisip, pag-uugali, at pagkilos ay katulad ng kay Kristo. That is what it really means to be identified with Jesus.
Christian discipleship means witnessing to Christ. To follow Jesus is to be “fishers of men and women” for Jesus. To witness to Jesus is to be a bearer of the Good News, to be a reflection of God’s goodness and generosity, to be a living sign of God’s mercy and compassion. We fulfill our Christian mission whenever we reach out in love to heal others by words of comfort in their times of sorrow; or by gestures of encouragement in their moments of crisis; or by messages of affirmation in their experiences of rejection. We witness to Jesus whenever we proclaim the indestructibility of hope by bouncing back from our own losses or by starting anew after a tragedy. We draw others closer to the Lord whenever we serve, whenever we pray together as a family, whenever we forgive one another’s offenses. This is how we witness to Jesus.
Again, my dear friends, the Lord is calling each one of us. May we hear loud and clear the Lord’s loving invitation to us: “Come after me… Come, follow me… I will make you fishers of men and women.” And may we respond in love to his call by giving ourselves to Jesus… by being identified with him… and by becoming living witnesses of the Good News of God’s love.