Friday Focus: Follow Me
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news." As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea--for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him. - Mark 1:14-20
Once again, the first gospels in Ordinary Times are all about beginnings. Last week we saw John the Baptist meet Jesus and proclaim him the Lamb of God. This week we see Andrew and Peter, James and John drop everything to follow Christ.
What do these gospels have to tell us? What does Christ want us to hear? What does he want us to do? After all, we’re baptized Christians. We know we’re redeemed. Our sins are mostly small-time misdemeanors. We go to church on Sunday. We’re committed enough to read this message. What more do you want?
Follow me: that is what Jesus wants. Sometimes Christ speaks in parables, other times he poses questions… not this time. Jesus uses the imperative tense: Follow me. Put down your nets: and I will make you fishers of men. They did. And he did.
Follow me: that is what Jesus wants from us, too. Put down your remotes. Get off the couch. Stop texting. Stop being so very busy being busy. Being a Christian is not a Sunday morning thing. It is the ultimate 365/24/7 vocation. Christians follow Christ. That defines what we are and why we are here. Being a Christian governs every aspect of our lives: our private personal conduct, our family, social and professional lives. It is what God has planned for us from before time began.
OK. But what will it mean for me to follow Christ? For Peter, Andrew and James it meant martyrdom. Only God knows what following Christ means for each of us. That’s why it must begin with a leap of faith. Paul instructs us in Hebrews 11:1 that: Faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see.
Father Mychal Judge made that leap of faith. As a New York City Fire Department Chaplain, he followed Jesus to the World Trade Center. But before he did, he left us this prayer: “Lord, take me where you want me to go, let me meet who you want me to meet, tell me what you want me to say, and keep me out of your way.” Then on 9/11, God called him home in the company of so many other heroes. Chances are following Jesus will not mean martyrdom for any of us. But it almost certainly means lots of struggle and sacrifice for every one of us. Yet our faith tells us to follow where Jesus leads…to an earthly life, rich in grace, spent praising God and serving neighbor… then on to an eternal life rejoicing in God’s love. He leads us to where we are meant to be. Every day he calls to us: Follow me.
Focus: Dare to Open Your Heart
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, "Follow me." Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth." Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see." When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, "Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!" Nathanael asked him, "Where did you get to know me?" Jesus answered, "I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you." Nathanael replied, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" Jesus answered, "Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these." And he said to him, "Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man." - John 1:43-51
As Jesus begins his public life, first dozens, then scores, then hundreds of people came to see him. Most listened and walked away. They had other priorities. But John got the whole picture at first sight. Like Andrew, John recognizes the Messiah. But he sees much more. He knows immediately that Jesus was sent by the Father to atone for sin. He proclaims Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice, the Lamb of God.
How did John see what others didn’t? He had spent his whole life waiting for Jesus. He was open at all times for Christ to enter his life. How about us? Are we open for Christ to enter our lives? Would we even recognize Jesus? Or would we pass him in the parking lot? Do we have just too many other priorities?
2012 is still new. And it’s a good time for resolutions – particularly for examining and adjusting our priorities. Here’s one that should be on the top of the list. Like John, let’s leave ourselves open to Jesus. Let’s invite him into our lives each day. Let’s look for him in the commonplace and the unusual. Let’s engage Jesus in a running conversation of prayer as our day progresses. Wake up with him. Listen to him. Ask his help. Give him thanks. Anticipate what he wants us to do. At every opportunity share him with the people in our lives.
If your heart isn’t there yet, coax it along. Consciously commit to living an active life in Christ. Take the first step. Over and over ask Jesus to open your heart. As Paul tells us: I can do all things through God who strengthens us. Open your heart to Jesus, your hands and your feet will follow. With Jesus every daily chore can become a prayer. Then get ready to be loved. Sometimes his love will seep in. Other times it will flood in. Living in Jesus means living in love. You’ll get it. You’ll give it. You’ll rejoice in it. In time, Jesus will gather you home in his love. John opened his heart, so did Andrew and so did Peter. They all followed Jesus to glory. But it never would have happened if they didn’t dare to open their hearts. Let’s dare to open our hearts today. Let’s empty ourselves and make room for his love. This prayer can help get us started: Dear Jesus, open my heart to you. I am yours. You are my Savior, The Lamb of God. Come live in me, so that I can live in you. You know my frailties and my foolish pride. Change my life so that it reflects your love in all I think and all I do. Lead me home, Lord, one loving step at a time.