Christ’s Invitation to Become Disciples
Fr. Luke A. Veronis
“Come and follow me!” On one hand it seems like such a simple invitation, and yet, when one understands the implications, it demands a radical response!
“Follow me,” Jesus calls out to Peter, Andrew, James and John as they fish. “Come,” he challenges them, “Leave your fishing, leave your livelihood, leave your families, leave life as you presently understand it, and follow me on another path, follow me on an unknown road in life, follow me in a radically new way of living!”
How many of us would willingly follow Christ, if it meant we had to leave our families, leave our profession or livelihood, leave all with which we are familiar, and trust Him wherever He may lead?!?
Christ’s invitation presents a dilemma not only for his first disciples, but to all future generations, including each one of us. Are we willing to trust Jesus and follow Him, leaving the ways of the world? Are we willing to follow Him and leave behind our world of fear, hatred and violence? Are we willing to follow Him and seek something more than the superficial pursuits and pleasures of many of us? Are we willing to follow Him and set aside our destructive habits and sinful ways, even casting aside our lives of guilt and regret?
To follow Jesus means searching for eternal meaning and significance in our prosperous, yet shallow society. To follow Jesus implies entering into His kingdom of divine love and finding rest for our souls. To follow Jesus will lead us into His house of peace which passes all understanding, and into a secure home where unending joy reigns even in the darkest moments of life.
The invitation can be intimidating, yet simultaneously beautiful. “To live in the world without belonging to the world,” the noted author Henri Nouwen writes, “summarizes the essence of the spiritual life. The spiritual life keeps us aware that our true house is not the house of fear, in which the powers of hatred and violence rule, but the house of love, where God resides.”
Jesus Christ’s invitation does not call us to abandon the world, becoming hermits isolated from society. Instead, He invites us to live fully in the world, but not be of this world, to live in this society, but to realize that our citizenship is not in this country, but only in heaven itself. Of course, as followers of Christ we live in the world as other people do, but we follow a different drummer than most, we look at life from a different perspective, we possess a bright light in the midst of a dark and often confused generation. When hatred attacks, we love. Wherever injury hurts, we forgive and heal. When doubt persists, we plant seeds of faith. Where sadness overwhelms, we share the joy of our Lord. When darkness threatens, we shine forth the light of Christ!
Follow me! Our Lord Jesus calls us to follow Him not out of this world, but on a different path in this world. In His High Priestly Prayer, Christ asked His Father, “Do not remove [my disciples] from the world, but protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.”
As followers of Jesus, we must understand this fundamental and essential point of our Christian journey – we do not belong to this world! This world offers its worries and anxieties, its superficial busyness and activity, its endless urgencies and emergencies, its pettiness and vindictiveness, its guilt and anguish, its pain and sorrow. Christ calls us to leave this world, and to enter into a new realm of existence, a new realm of abundant living!
The reign under which we live is the kingdom of a loving God. In His reassuring embrace, we find comfort and peace; in His way of life, we discover meaning and purpose; under the guidance of His Holy Spirit, we realize our full potential as beloved children of Almighty God!
“Follow me” is an exciting invitation into a new way of life, into a dynamic, vibrant life in Christ. And the most exhilarating aspect of this existence is that no exterior, unexpected event in life can pull us away from our new life in Christ. Whether a sudden illness, an unexpected tragedy, a heartrending disappointment, or any other event out of our control – none of these necessarily have the power to pull us out of the security of this kingdom of God in which we choose to dwell. So, will we accept this invitation and begin living out our new life in Christ?
Well, the first half of today’s Gospel reading invites us, and challenges us, to follow Jesus into His house of love. Yet the Gospel reading doesn’t stop there. Our Lord invites us to come with Him, but not simply to come and rest. Of course, He wants us to rest and renew ourselves, and fulfill our potential by becoming the new creation He meant us to be. But once we do that, He then blesses us with a meaningful task – “Follow me,” Jesus called out to Andrew and Peter, “and I will make you fishers of men.” He offers His new disciples the great privilege and responsibility to take part in His ministry of love.
Just as Jesus invites His disciples to come and enter into a new, abundant life in Christ, He then wants His disciples to go out and invite others to enter into this same house of love. No longer will Peter and Andrew, James and John be fishing for fish, but now they will be fishing for people. They will go from working as fishermen who sustain their own families, to working with all people and offering everyone an opportunity for this same radical new life.
Everyone who becomes a disciple of Jesus then has the sober privilege and responsibility to go out and invite others to discover this same life as well. These past weeks we have highlighted the feast of Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit. May we remember our responsibility to participate in Christ’s ministry, with the help and guidance of the Holy spirit, and become witnesses of God’s love to the world. And we can do this in simple ways: by inviting our friends, co-workers, neighbors, and others to also follow Him. Invite others to come and follow us to Church. Invite them to follow us to Bible Study. Invite them to join our Christian fellowship. Simply invite others to come and see for themselves. That shouldn’t be too difficult or threatening for us to do, and it can be our first important step to fulfilling the great task Christ has called us to do!
As we reflect upon our Lord’s words in today’s Gospel to “Follow Me,” let each of us make a decision to first of all accept His invitation and truly enter into His house of love ourselves, and then to go out and invite others to join us on this exciting journey of new life!