Friday, January 20, 2012

This Week’s Focus: Follow Me

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."  As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea--for they were fishermen.  And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people."  And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets.  Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.  Mark 1:14-20

Dear Friends,

Once again, the first gospels in Ordinary Times are all about beginnings. Last week we saw John the Baptist meet Jesus and proclaim him the Lamb of God. This week we see Andrew and Peter, James and John drop everything to follow Christ.

What do these gospels have to tell us? What does Christ want us to hear? What does he want us to do? After all, we’re baptized Christians. We know we’re redeemed. Our sins are mostly small-time misdemeanors. We go to church on Sunday. We’re committed enough to read this message. What more do you want?

Follow me: that is what Jesus wants. Sometimes Christ speaks in parables, other times he poses questions… not this time. Jesus uses the imperative tense: Follow me. Put down your nets: and I will make you fishers of men. They did. And he did.

Follow me: that is what Jesus wants from us, too. Put down your remotes. Get off the couch. Stop texting. Stop being so very busy being busy. Being a Christian is not a Sunday morning thing. It is the ultimate 365/24/7 vocation. Christians follow Christ. That defines what we are and why we are here. Being a Christian governs every aspect of our lives: our private personal conduct, our family, social and professional lives. It is what God has planned for us from before time began.

OK. But what will it mean for me to follow Christ? For Peter, Andrew and James it meant martyrdom. Only God knows what following Christ means for each of us. That’s why it must begin with a leap of faith. Paul instructs us in Hebrews 11:1 that: Faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see.

Father Mychal Judge made that leap of faith. As a New York City Fire Department Chaplain, he followed Jesus to the World Trade Center. But before he did, he left us this prayer: “Lord, take me where you want me to go, let me meet who you want me to meet, tell me what you want me to say, and keep me out of your way.” Then on 9/11, God called him home in the company of so many other heroes.

Chances are following Jesus will not mean martyrdom for any of us. But it almost certainly means lots of struggle and sacrifice for every one of us. Yet our faith tells us to follow where Jesus leads…to an earthly life, rich in grace, spent praising God and serving neighbor… then on to an eternal life rejoicing in God’s love. He leads us to where we are meant to be. Every day he calls to us:  Follow me.  

Faithfully yours in Christ’s love,

Olivier, Ferdinand, 1785-1841. Jesus with Disciples, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved January 20, 2012].

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