Gospel: Matthew 4:12-23
This Gospel passage takes place right after Jesus had spent forty days in the desert praying and fasting in preparation for his ministry. This forty day retreat began with his baptism by John in the Jordan, and it ends with him receiving word that John had been arrested. The time had come for Jesus to begin his public ministry. Matthew tells us that his message was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” This is the message Jesus preached in various ways, from parables, to instructions, and through miracles. All of these were words and acts that were meant to touch the hearts and souls of Scribes and Pharisees, fishermen and carpenters, tradesmen and even sinners. As we know, the Pharisees and scribes, were less likely to take his words to heart and focused more on discrediting him.
Maybe this is the reason that when it came time for Jesus to select his apostles he began by calling four fishermen. Later he would add to the group men of various backgrounds, who didn’t seem to be on a leadership tract in life. Jesus saw otherwise and called them to follow and learn from him. For Simon and Andrew, James and John, there was a power to the call of Jesus. They immediately left their nets, their work, and in the case of James and John, their father, and followed Jesus. It was a call that took the apostles to new places both geographically and spiritually. They changed their assumption that part of their call was to protect Jesus from people trying to vie for his attention, even children, to realizing that Jesus was welcoming to all. He showed them that to be a follower there are times when one must put aside their agenda and plans so as to minister. They changed their view that sinners, lepers and other outcasts should be avoided, instead the learned from Jesus to treat them as brothers and sisters. They learned from Jesus that to be a leader was to be a servant willing to wash the feet of his followers, and suffer death out of love for us.
The first question that comes from this Gospel is, “How is Jesus calling us to follow him?” We can respond by saying, “I have no special gifts, what can I do?” We each have been blessed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit that brings to us various charisms of service. Recognize and appreciate the wonderful gifts with which we have been blessed. Be willing to use these charisms (particular gifts) in the way God is calling me to use them. There is that temptation to make our own plans, and to figure out what we think is God’s plan on our own terms. The true follower is willing to set aside their plans and respond to God’s plan. We might not leave fishing boats, torn nets and even parents, but we are called to leave part of ourselves behind and follow Jesus.
The call to discipleship is one that each of us has received and the Gospel reminds us of this call. May we be more attentive to this call. May we be more mindful in quickly answering the call. May we experience the beauty of accepting the call with faith and acting on it. In this way we will become like the first apostles who quickly responded, continued to learn during their three years walking with Jesus and the years afterwards during which, with the power of the Holy Spirit, they did what they probably never imagined they would do when first called; traveled to the ends of the earth.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.