MONDAY HOMILY: Follow Me
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Instead, he sought people who were laborers, honest and unsophisticated. Jesus "seeks co-workers. among people used to hard work, people for whom life is a struggle and whose life-style is plain" (Navarre Bible, Commentary on the Gospel of St. Mark [Mark 1:16-20], p. 202)." During the Last Supper the Lord would remind his apostles, "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit" (John 15:16).
Finally, Jesus does not ask the apostles' permission. When Jesus says, "Follow me," he is issuing a command. This is not a suggestion, but an imperative. In response, the Lord expects a whole-hearted surrender, without compromise. And that's exactly what the apostles give him.
"And immediately they left their nets and followed him" (Mark 1:18). There is no wavering, doubt, or even discussion. Simon and Andrew do not weigh their options or calculate the possibilities of saying, "yes" vs. saying, "no." The call of the Lord was simple and direct. The response of the apostles was equally uncomplicated. "Immediately."
In preparing children for their first confession, we spend time helping them to examine their consciences. When we review the fourth commandment, "Honor your father and your mother," I ask the children to ask themselves, "When my parents tell me to do something, do I always do it the first time they tell me, or do I make them repeat it over and over?" Obeying the first time, as opposed to the second, fourth, or hundredth time, is a way of living the fourth commandment generously and without reservation.
God wants us to respond to him in the same way. What must it have taken the apostles to drop their nets, symbolic of leaving their whole lives behind, in order to follow the Lord? They must have been men of great generosity and detachment. Generous, because they had great love for God. Detached, because they would not allow material things, even good things, to come between themselves and their Lord.
That sort of detachment is essential for the Christian life. It is so easy to have unhealthy attachments to material goods, comfort, even our own opinions and preferences. The Gospels contain several accounts of individuals who wanted to follow Christ, but who put conditions on their discipleship (see Luke 9:57-62; Mt 19:16-23). We want to live a discipleship without conditions, without boundaries; a wholehearted surrender to the love and mercy of God.
"Christian detachment has nothing to do with disdain for material goods. Rather it has to do with making that counsel of Our Lord's a reality in our own lives: Seek first his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well [Matthew 6:33]. We will discover that the more we struggle to detach ourselves completely from things, the greater will be our capacity to love others and to appreciate the goodness and beauty of creation" (Francis Fernandez, In Conversation with God, vol. 3, p. 107).
We take comfort in knowing, without a doubt, that the Lord has called us as well. From the moment of our baptism, we have embarked on the path of Christian discipleship. Occasionally we have strayed from the right road. Sometimes we have fallen. At other times, we have moved forward steadfastly, trusting in the grace of God to guide us.
May the Lord renew in our hearts the desire to leave everything behind and follow him.
Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds is pastor of St. Theresa Catholic Church in Sugar Land, TX, a suburb of Houston. You may visit the parish website at: www.SugarLandCatholic.com.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Fishers of Men, Gospel of Mark, Follow me, Call of Apostles, Simon Peter, Andrew, Year of Faith, Daily Homilies, St. Theresa Sugar Land, Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds
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