How Could They Follow Him?

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes

When I read the four Gospels for the first time, I naturally began with Matthew’s Gospel, and I remember being offended by today’s gospel reading. Matthew tells us Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee and saw two brothers, Simon and Andrew, with their fishing nets. He said, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” And they followed him. Then the Lord saw two other brothers, James and John, mending their nets. He called them too, and they immediately left their boat and their father to follow him. This episode really bothered me. Imagine being at your home or at your workplace, and a stranger knocks on your front door or walks up to your desk and says, “Follow me.” So you quit your job and leave your family to follow this person. Who would do that? It’s crazy. How can the Lord expect anyone to do that? But John’s Gospel reveals that today’s gospel was not the first time Jesus had met these future apostles.

Simon Peter’s brother Andrew and (traditionally) John the son of Zebedee were the two disciples who heard John the Baptist point out Jesus and say, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” This declaration led them to meet Jesus and spend the day with him. After this, Andrew first found his brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah!” (that is, the Christ). Then Andrew brought Simon to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter). If John the son of Zebedee was that other unnamed disciple, then he likely told his older brother James all about meeting Jesus too. So in today’s gospel, when Jesus called the four men to follow him as “fishers of men” he was not some total stranger.

The various Gospels sometimes include or omit different details when recounting the same events. Luke’s Gospel adds further context to this scene. He records there was a crowd pressing in on Jesus that day by the Sea of Galilee. So Jesus got into Simon and Andrew’s boat, sat down, and taught the people from there a short distance from the shore. When Jesus finished speaking, he told Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Skeptical Simon reluctantly agreed, and they proceeded to catch such a great number of fish that their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come help and both boats became so filled that they were in danger of sinking. Astonishment at that catch of fish seized Simon and Andrew, and likewise James and John, who were Simon’s business partners. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”

Therefore, reading the Gospels together, we learn that Jesus was not a random stranger who just showed up one day demanding their full devotion. They were already familiar with Jesus, had heard his teaching, and witnessed his power. This enabled Simon, Andrew, James, and John to reasonably and radically follow Jesus Christ like they did.

Among all famous figures, Jesus Christ may have the highest name recognition in the world. Everyone has heard of Jesus, but how well do people know him? Surely, Jesus would like to call many to more; to a deeper relationship with himself and a closer connection to his one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. How can you help? Your non-Catholic or non-practicing family, friends, and acquaintances know you, they like you, and regard you. They rarely (if ever) see or hear me, but they frequently encounter you. Simon Peter took Jesus seriously because his brother Andrew. Andrew already knew Jesus, told stories and spoke highly of him, and encouraged Simon to meet him. You can be like Andrew for people in your life. As I preached at the other Masses last Sunday, three ways you can draw people closer to Christ and his Church are by sharing your prayers, sharing your stories, and sharing your invitations.

Share your Prayers
When you share your prayers with others it reflects that you know Jesus. Whenever someone asks for your prayers, or even when someone entrusts their burdens to you, offer to pray with them then and there. It’s easy—just talk to Jesus out loud. The words of your prayer don’t need to be eloquent, just sincere. People are typically receptive to this and very grateful for it, and your shared prayer can open the door for a miracle in their lives.

Share your Stories
When you share your faith stories with others it reveals the power of Jesus in our world. How have you encountered Jesus? What has the Lord done for you? What are your personal miracles and spirit stories? Don’t hide these highlight experiences of your spiritual life under bushel baskets, but be humble enough to share them for others’ good. When the disciples realized what Jesus Christ could do, through the miracle of the great catch of fish, they left everything to follow him.

Share your Invitations
When you share your holy invitations with others this offers them an opportunity to encounter Jesus and his Church. Invite them to join you here in the house of the Lord, for Holy Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, or parish events. Invite them to share in our Christ-centered worship and close community. Even if they decline, you will have planted a seed that may bear fruit someday.

Simon, Andrew, James, and John encountered friends of Jesus, discovered his power to do good, and had the opportunity to personally encounter him. Your faithful prayers, your powerful stories, and your holy invitations, can offer your non-practicing or non-Catholic dear ones the opportunity to follow Jesus Christ more closely. Here is your homework for this week: share a prayer, or a story, or an invitation with someone it could help. Cast your net so that Jesus Christ may be better known, and let’s see what Jesus does with it.

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