Gotta love our Church. Even when the government of the richest and most powerful country in the world is shut down, your Church is still open for business...offering refuge from the chaos of life, uniting everyone who walks through these doors, and dispensing God’s grace through the Sacraments. Even when our government fails us, the Church is still here, healing hearts and nourishing souls. Thanks be to God!
None of this would be possible, of course, without the cooperation of humans with God’s divine plan. Our Creator is the source of all that is good, including life itself, but in His infinite wisdom, God requires our participation to perpetuate His creation. This is why He made male and female. And why He elevated matrimony to a Sacrament.
In the fullness of time, the Word became flesh. God became man. God the Father sent us His only Son to dwell among us, and to teach us the Way, the Truth and the Life. Jesus knew his time on earth would be limited, so he recruited others to carry on the mission.
Today’s Gospel passage describes how the very first apostles were recruited. And how it happened is quite remarkable. As Jesus passed by the Sea of Galilee, he sees two fishermen, Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, casting their nets into the sea. Come after me, he says, and I will make you fishers of men. The Gospel says that they abandoned their nets and followed him.
He walked along a little farther and saw James and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father mending their fishing nets. When Jesus called them, they too dropped what they were doing and followed Jesus. James and John left so quickly that they left their father standing in the boat. Dejardon el viego allí parado. No good bye party was planned. No walk back to the house with their dad to get their stuff together. Jesus called and their life change was immediate.
Why would these men heed the call without more evaluation of the pros and cons or without careful preparation? Why would they say yes without at least asking their mom for her blessing? Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John do none of that. Upon receiving the invitation, they don’t ask Jesus…Where are we going? What will we do? How long will we be gone? Where will we stay? Is there a Starbucks where we are going? Is there WiFi?
Jesus doesn’t give these men an itinerary or discuss his plans with them in advance. Nor do any of them demand more information before they say yes. Jesus simply gives an invitation to follow him in faith. And in faith, they follow him. When they hear Jesus calling, they stop what they are doing and began a new life. Follow me is both an invitation and a promise of new life.
Today’s Gospel is speaks to us, too. Just as Jesus called the apostles to a new life, so too is he calling each of us. Jesus invites us to follow him and to begin a new life where we live in Christ and he lives in us. Sometimes, we are reluctant to answer the call because means we have to leave our comfort zone. A decision to follow means that life as we know it will have to be different. We don’t have to leave our day jobs to respond to the invitation, but we do have to be willing to change our lives and our priorities. We have to check our egos and allow Jesus to be at the center of our universe. We have to be willing to decrease so that God can increase. We can still fish for food in our daily work lives, but after our encounter with Christ, we become fishers of men and women. We become fishers of souls. Follow me is a call to participate in God’s saving work. To bring others to Christ. All who are baptized share in this responsibility.
While all of us share in this mission, some are called to consecrate their lives to God and serve as His ministers. The call to the priesthood or to other religious life is a most special honor, and those who are discerning deserve and need our prayers and encouragement.
Maybe someone you know and love is considering a religious life right now? How are we supposed to react? Look to Zebedee, the father of James and John, as the role model. Poor guy. He’s got a family business to run. Both of his sons work for him. From one moment to the next, they leave their father standing in the boat with a fishing net in his hands. As a father, I can imagine what my reaction would have been, but it probably won’t be pretty.
We have to admire Zebadee as a parent. Because, of all the treasures God has entrusted to us, none are as important as our children. It’s hard for us to let them go. Yet, when his two sons are called to leave everything and follow Jesus, Zebadee had the faith and trust to let them go. Even though this would mean that Zebadee would have to operate the family fishing business on his own, he didn’t stand in their way, because he knew his sons were being called to something bigger and better.
Like it or not, the day comes when our children leave the nest. As many of you know, our youngest child left for college this past August, leaving us empty nesters. As parents, grandparents, or caregivers, one of our primary responsibilities is to do all we can to help our children prepare for life, and we have a special responsibility to help them discern their true vocation.
More often than we probably realize, our children go through stages when they wonder whether they are being called to a religious life. Sadly, the calling is often suppressed because as parents and family members with influence over these children, we do little or nothing to foster and encourage vocations in our homes. God forbid that we belittle our children for expressing an interest in religious life.
In the United States, we have an average of one priest for every 2,000 Catholics. This is bad enough, but in the Rio Grande Valley, we have just one priest for every 10,000 Catholics. This problem is of our own making because we are not doing enough to encourage vocations in our families. Or worse, we are blocking our children who show an interest in a religious life.
Instead of discouraging our children from considering a religious life, we’ve got to help them discern, especially through prayer. How many times have you asked a child what they want to be when they grow up? An easy way we can encourage vocations in our homes is by asking them, what do you think God wants you to be when you grow up? A simple question like this could be the spark that opens their minds and their hearts to God’s call.
Now, if find them struggling with the call because they feel they are not worthy, remind them that God chose Noah even though he got drunk after the flood. God chose Abraham even though he committed adultery, Moses even though he killed someone. And God chose Peter who, turns out was a coward who could not keep his word. Yet, Peter went on to become a saint, our first Pope, and the rock upon which this great Church was built. Obviously, God doesn’t choose us based on what we have done in the past. God calls you because He knows who you can become.