We saw last Sunday who the Twelve Apostles were, and this Sunday the Gospel reading (Matth. 4, 18-23) describes exactly how Jesus addressed His call to His first disciples and how they responded. So we see two pairs of brothers, Andrew and Peter, on the one hand, and James and John, on the other, fishermen all, accepting the Lord’s invitation without further ado. They heard His call and at once left their nets and followed Him.
Without doubt, the presence of Christ would have had some drawing power at the moment of their first encounter. This is demonstrated by other instances of people meeting Him for the first time: they were struck by the sight of Him and felt that there was something different about Him. His calm bearing, the tranquillity and wisdom His words conveyed, the truth of His teaching, all made people stand in awe and reverence before Him.
It may be that some people were predisposed towards Him because they’d previously been disciples of John the Baptist, so they were already aware that the Messiah would follow; He Whom they’d been expecting for centuries would be coming and meeting them. But whatever the reason, what we need to keep hold of and what we really need to understand at the deepest level is the self-denial of the first-called disciples of Jesus.
Because, if we pay a little more attention to the Gospel narrative, we shall see that in reality the fishermen it describes were actually taking a huge risk. Somebody turns up where they’re working and says: “Come with me and I’ll make you fishers of souls”. They knew nothing about him. It seems that they didn’t leave their livelihood to a safe pair of hands. They abandoned everything, just like that- family, trade, plans- and threw themselves into a journey with an as yet unknown destination.
The faith they showed was almost absolute. They weren’t attracted by any recompense. They weren’t looking for any payment in return. All they wanted was to follow Him Who had simply told them that they were to fish for people. And they didn’t even ask for any further explanation of these decidedly odd words. The invitation itself was enough to change their lives and, therewith, the whole history of the world forever.
Their attitude certainly constitutes an- alas- withering criticism of our own lives. Lives overflowing with calculations. Despite the fact that, since then, countless miraculous events have taken place; despite the fact that so many wise teachers have lived who have analyzed and explained the meaning of the Lord’s teaching; despite the fact that we, in our own lives, in many and varied ways, have seen the visible and beneficent signs of God’s presence, we still hesitate to follow Him truly.
We are wary, for example, about observing His commandments. We want to make sure, first, that it’s in our interest, that it won’t affect our social standing. And even when we do observe them, we think of the reward that’s waiting for us, or we have our minds on the satisfaction of getting something in return. It’s difficult for us to “leave the comfort zone” and show how much we love our neighbour, as He wants us to.
Of course, we understand how far removed we are from the example of the Holy Apostles, and, indeed, of all the saints of the Church, who set no store by their personal standing and preferred the path of God. We realize, I hope, that, as we think of our own petty interests, we’re turning down the invitation to the Kingdom that awaits us.
by Metropolitan Barnabas of Neapolis and Stavroupolis
Source: Newspaper “Democratia”, July 6, 2013