As Jesus passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them: “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. (Mk. 1:16-18)
Like a great sequel, this weekend’s gospel completes the story of Jesus’ calling of the apostles. Last week, we heard how John the Baptist introduced both John and Andrew to Christ as “the Lamb of God.” In turn, Andrew seeks out his brother Simon and brings him to Jesus. In that first encounter, Jesus foreshadows Peter’s ultimate vocation as he gives him a new name: Kephas, the Rock. This initial “meet and greet” provides the context for today’s story. Having recognized Jesus as the Christ and accepted his teaching of repentance, Peter and Andrew return to their primary profession, fishing. But Jesus wants more. As he preaches along the seashore, Christ calls out to Peter and Andrew to follow him in order that they might be trained as “fishers of men.” Their response? To leave everything and follow Jesus.
Last week, Samuel’s prayer shaped our understanding of discipleship: Speak Lord, your servant is listening. If we are serious about following Christ, we ought to pray daily for our ears to open and hear God speaking. This week, we are invited to take the next step, to respond to the call that we have heard. To be a disciple is not simply to follow Christ, but also, to lead others to seek Him as well. Peter and Andrew’s radical response in leaving the labor of their livelihood illumines the urgency of Jesus’ message: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mk 1:15) The immediacy of the brother’s answer to Christ challenges us to renew our commitment to discipleship. We ask ourselves: What keeps us from sharing the story of how we’ve encountered Christ in our lives?
Recently, I was chatting with a friend about the experience of sharing our faith. After I related how the Lord has been instrumental in some of the ways that he has awakened faith through my liturgical preaching, they recounted a powerful of story of what they called “lunchtime preaching.” On a weekday noon, they went out for a brief curbside lunch bite, and as is their custom, they made the sign of the cross as they silently prayed a quick grace before meals. While they were eating, they were approached by a woman who said: “I couldn’t help but notice that you crossed yourself before eating. Are you Catholic?” When my friend gave an affirmative, if guarded, nod, the woman continued, “I just learned that my father was in an accident. Could you say a prayer for him, too?” Stunned, my friend agreed and, so encouraged, the woman carried on her way, melting back into the sidewalk crowd. A simple gesture; an anxious heart; a moment of grace. God is always calling us to follow him. And as disciples, we have experienced his blessings. Are we willing to be that blessing? How will we share our story?
~ Fr. Michael