In the Gospel today, Jesus begins to call others to follow Him. In today’s terms, we could say that he is seeking qualified candidates for an open position. But Jesus doesn’t operate the way we might expect – the way I certainly would: creating a job description, fielding inquiries, interviewing candidates. Instead, He simply walks along the Sea of Galilee and invites people directly: “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” I would probably have asked, “Excuse me, Jesus, how many hours will I be working? What is your benefit package?” But for these men, the invitation is enough — they leave behind everything they know to follow Him.
Being a disciple is not exactly like being an employee, of course, so my analogy doesn’t work completely. Still, I think the Gospel today invites us to consider our own response to the Lord’s call. Would we have responded if we had heard him along the Sea of Galilee? And what’s more – are we responding now when He calls us? The Lord hasn’t stopped calling disciples to follow Him; He just does so now in different ways than before.
What might prevent us from responding? One factor is a lack of interest or attentiveness. Did you notice how immediately the disciples responded? Presumably, it was because they were already very familiar with who Jesus was and the charisma that He must have had. In last week’s Gospel, we heard how Andrew and Peter had spent time with Jesus, getting to know Him. In today's reading, now the Lord calls them, and knowing Him and being familiar with who He is, they are ready to respond.
|The Calling of St. Peter and St. Andrew (c. 1888) by James Tissot|
In our lives, too, we need a familiarity with Jesus – more than that, an intimacy, a friendship – because we can only respond when we recognize His voice and hear the loving urgency of His call. Daily prayer, including regular reading of Sacred Scripture, is an essential way of communicating with the Lord and growing in our friendship with Him. Today is the second “Sunday of the Word of God,” when we recall that the Bible is God’s living Word and that through it He continues to speak to us today. To engage with Scripture every day, even for just ten minutes, can form a habit within us of listening for the Lord’s voice, and often discovering it in the other ways He calls us.
A second factor that can prevent us from responding to the Lord’s call is a lack of confidence in ourselves. In today’s first reading, God calls Jonah to go and preach to the city of Nineveh. He does so effectively; the Ninevites turn away from their sin, and Jonah fulfills his role. But we shouldn’t forget what happened before this story: Jonah had run away from God, afraid or unwilling to do what he asked. We also will hear the voice of God speaking to us, calling us to do something, but sometimes we turn Him down because we are afraid or unwilling to do what He asks. We might doubt that He is really speaking to us, or else convince ourselves that we are not qualified to do whatever He asks.
This lack of confidence in ourselves is really rooted in a lack of confidence in Him, in trusting that He will make us ready for the mission he gives to us. Maybe that mission is helping to form our family in holiness, or giving witness in our workplace to our coworkers, or perhaps serving our parish in some way, or perhaps reaching out to those who are lost and in need to share with them our resources, whether material or spiritual. Whatever it might be, we can have confidence that the Lord who calls us will also give us whatever is required to fulfill that call.
Friends, as the Lord once walked along the Sea of Galilee calling the disciples, so too He is present among us and calling us to be part of what He is doing, what He is still doing – sanctifying the world, something needed now more than ever. If we listen to Him, hearing His voice and being attentive to His Word, He will show us how what He desires us to do. Be confident, then, in His call; after all, you don’t have to be an employee of the Church to be doing the Lord’s work. In this Eucharist that we will celebrate, the Lord Himself comes to us in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood to make us ready for the work He sends us to do.