top of page

Called to Follow ...

Entrance Antiphon: Ps 96(95):1, 6 — “O sing a new song to the Lord; sing to the Lord, all the earth. In His presence are majesty and splendor, strength, and honor in His holy place.”

First Reading: Is 8:23 – 9:3 — “In Galilee of the Gentiles, the people have seen a great light.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 27:1, 4, 13-14 — “The Lord is my light and my salvation.”

Second Reading: 1 Cor 1:10-13, 17 — “That all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you.”

Alleluia: Mt 4:23 — Alleluia, alleluia. “Jesus proclaimed the Gospel of the Kingdom and cured every disease among the people.” Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel: Mt 4:12-23 — “Jesus went to Capernaum so that what had been said through Isaiah might be fulfilled.”

Communion Antiphon: Ps 34(33):6 — “I am light of the world, says the Lord; whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

What I think is often fascinating and sometimes inspiring … is to listen to peoples’ stories … how they arrived at their current state of life … maybe especially how they met a future spouse ... the circumstances that surrounded such a meeting ... and then what followed. Equally interesting are how some were and continue to be called to the permanent Diaconate, to the Priesthood, to religious life, or to service in the Church. One thing is sure, God does work in mysterious and surprising ways. And often no two stories are alike. Some of the details might be similar but often there are twists and turns that led them in a certain direction ... down a certain path. When you think about it, Jesus’ call of the apostles led them in a direction they probably never imagined or anticipated. It might be an added reason why they had such a difficult time understanding who Jesus was and what His mission truly was all about.

Jesus called two sets of brothers ... and even that, in and of itself, is unusual ... Simon and Andrew … James and John ... and they followed Him. That meant they fell in behind Jesus because He was now their leader, and they were to follow in His footsteps. When you think about it, the amazing and radical part is their willingness to do it immediately because it seemed as if they certainly were attached to their fishing ... much like we might be attached to something in our lives and would hate to let go of it. They were not poor like so many today, but well-employed.

For instance, how many today are unemployed having lost their jobs and are earnestly looking for work? Some have sent out hundreds of resumes without any results. For instance, consider all those in the Atlantic City area who have lost their jobs as the casino industry down the shore slowly collapses. I can tell you the story of my cousin who had been employed with a well-known insurance company for almost thirty-five years and was doing outstanding work but was told she was no longer needed because of downsizing. How devastating is that, especially after losing her parents, my godfather and his wife, and a younger brother in less than a year and a half? I’m sure there are many of you who could tell similar stories. But let’s get back on track.

Jesus’ call was a clever invitation because instead of casting their nets for fish they would now “catch” people. The apostles had much to lose and much to learn by accepting His call. James and John were strongly attached to their father and loyalty to him was very important. Peter was probably married because he had a mother-in-law who was cured by Jesus. Maybe today it is far harder for some to leave families or friends and follow Jesus into the Priesthood or into religious life. In some religious communities, people who are in their thirties and forties join. They had their own jobs, cars, homes, and many other amenities, so this can be and usually is more challenging. I was thirty-seven when I first seriously considered the priesthood. And while I was in seminary, there was an individual who was a federal court judge for almost twenty years before he entered. He was 61 when he was ordained. It is sometimes interesting to listen to stories how God touched the lives of these older seminarians and invited them to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

What you need to remember is that the apostles were called. They did not initiate the call. They did not know what lay ahead of them. Jesus teaching in the synagogues ... Jesus proclaiming the good news ... Jesus curing the sick and suffering ... Jesus casting out demons and touching lepers ... Jesus walking on water and calming winds, the waves, and storms. Please understand that we also do not take discipleship upon ourselves. We, too, are called. We are called to a life of service in the Church ... we are called to get married and raise families ... we are called to remain single ... we are called to a particular profession ... we are called to serve others ... the key here ... we are called. Remember, it was Jesus who said, “It was not you who chose Me, but I who chose you” (Jn 15:16). Some of us are able to pinpoint when we received our call … maybe through a dream … someone making the suggestion … or some event that took place. I can remember an incident when I was in grade school just before the Eucharistic Congress in 1976 in Philadelphia. I was spending part of my summer vacation my grandmother and we were visiting her sister, my great-aunt. At one point the conversation shifted to the fact that I would be serving Mass both in my home church and in the Civic Center during the events that August. My great-aunt said to my grandmother, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Larry became a priest.” Now, some 50+ years later, why do I remember that conversation? Perhaps deep down, that sowed the seed for my future vocation to the priesthood. And yes, it took a while for that seed to germinate, but it was there and germinate it did.

Others do not experience their call so clearly. Restlessness or dissatisfaction with their lives might have been present like it was in Saint Augustine’s life and many other saints. Or they were comfortable where they were and didn’t feel called to anything else. Still others might consider a call as an intrusion into their lives and say, “Please don’t bother me, or leave me alone.” The hard part might be leaving your old life behind. What seems to be implied with the apostles was that they left their livelihood, but we do find them still fishing. We cling to our old ways of having control of our lives. What is more challenging is to leave behind our bickering, strife, and pettiness, which Saint Paul found in the Corinthian community. It resulted in much rivalry and division. Unfortunately, both of those things are still very much present today. Saint Paul exhorts them not in his own name but “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” ... to unity not schism ... oneness of heart and soul, not envy, jealousy, anger, and resentment. We read in Acts, “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common” (Acts 4:32). His holiness, the late, Pope Benedict XVI and his holiness Pope Francis have encouraged us in the same way. They maintain that unity is a gift from God.

When called, we are asked to leave behind our set ideas, our meanness, our tendency to quarrel, our rash judgments, and we are asked to replace them with peace, love, forgiveness, and justice. It is easier, however, to let go of our “nets” or traps of material possessions than it is our own prejudices, unjust anger, resentment, and harsh judgments. The rich young man could not let go of his possessions. The author C. S. Lewis gave his book royalties to charity and lived on a modest income as a university professor. We are invited to cast out into the deep and not hug the shoreline. When invited, are we able to do just that, or do we retreat into our protective shell claiming that nothing can be done?

Most of us will agree that we live in very turbulent times in our society and Church. The cloud of sexual abuse has still not lifted. Diversity often leads to division instead of unity. Are we ready to work for greater unity and justice in our families, our Church, and our neighborhoods? Are we willing to be the kind of light spoken of by the Prophet Isaiah, dispelling the darkness around us and dispelling the darkness that maybe resides even in our hearts? Jesus is the light who came to dispel the darkness. He continues to call us to deeper discipleship, which means we muster all of our efforts to work for unity, peace, and justice.

Ask yourselves and consider this: Today, at this moment, is our response to Jesus’ call to discipleship as radical and amazing as that of the Apostles?

bottom of page