Homily for Ordinary Time 3
January 26, 2020
The Call to Discipleship
Are you a disciple? I would guess that in this church today, not everyone is a disciple. Some are here because they are forced to be here by their parents or spouses; some come out of habit; some are here because of fear of Hell. But being a disciple means so much more than that – and let us look at today’s Gospel to see three important points about what discipleship entails.
First, notice that it is Jesus who calls. “Come, follow Me,” He says to Peter and Andrew, James and John. They didn’t take it upon themselves to seek out the Lord – God sought them first. And this is a major difference between Christianity and all other world religions – other religions are man’s search for God, while Christianity is primarily about God’s search for man! From the moment of your birth, God has been seeking you, trying to show you His love, trying to win your heart and form your soul to be in relationship to Him.
Have you ever considered what a gift this is? I was born and raised Catholic, which means that I’ve never had to wonder, “Oh, I wonder what the meaning of my life is?” I’ve never had to ask myself if God loves me; I’ve never had to wonder whether there is life after death. All of these consoling truths have been given to you and me as a free gift because of our Catholic Faith. How wonderful to know that our relationship with God, through our Catholic Faith, was freely given to us!
But after Jesus says “Come”, He then says “follow Me.” You know, there is a huge difference between an admirer and a follower. I admire Michael Jordan – he is an incredible athlete who has donated a lot of time and money to charity. But I don’t follow Michael Jordan, in the sense that I don’t want to be like him. He spent thousands of hours working out and shooting baskets; I don’t. (I’m also not 6’6”!). We can admire someone from afar, or we can try to follow in their footsteps.
Many of us admire Jesus. We think, “Oh, He had some wonderful teachings and did some great miracles.” But Jesus says “follow Me” – live like Him! The word “disciple”, from the Latin “discipulus”, means “one who learns from or follows a teacher.” From that word we also get “discipline” because a disciple follows the spiritual disciplines of the Master. We see Jesus living out every virtue: humility, courage, faithfulness, prayer, self-sacrifice, love, purity. And then we must seek to imitate, not just admire, the Lord.
And then they left their nets to follow Him. Following Jesus involves leaving things behind, giving up things – and that’s why it’s hard! We give up our sins (notice Jesus’ first word in Matthew’s Gospel is “Repent”). We also give up things that keep us from Him. Is our smartphone keeping us from Him? We give it up. Is a relationship keeping us from Him? We leave it behind. Is it an addiction to food, TV, gossip? If we find that hanging out at a certain bar, or on certain websites, or around certain people always lead us into sin, we give them up. Yes, it costs something – or rather, everything. Peter and his friends literally left their job, their homes, everything. Because there is a cost to discipleship.
Imagine if Jesus invited someone who wasn’t willing to lay it down. Imagine that after Jesus invited James and John, Peter and Andrew, He then went along the shore and found Michael and Bob, and He invited them to follow Him. But Michael and Bob said, “Oh, Lord, I don’t know. You’re asking me to give up my job? You’re asking me to leave my home? I have to give up my family? I don’t know…” And they decline His offer, like many of us do when we’re more attached to the things of this world than the Lord. Perhaps Jesus offered this kind of radical discipleship to many, many more people – but we only hear about the ones courageous enough to leave everything. What is in your life that is preventing you from following Him more courageously?
My friends, Jesus is inviting you. It is He who is calling you to be His disciple. It is He Whom we should imitate, and not just admire from afar. And it is worth giving up anything that prevents us from following Him, because to possess the friendship of Christ is worth everything. Many of you are not yet disciples, but He is inviting you right now. He is saying to you today, “Come, follow Me.” Will you follow Him?