3rd Sunday B      –    FOLLOW ME

Jesus was just back from his baptism and 40 days’ struggle in the desert. He had been bowled over by his Father’s voice thundering from heaven, ‘You are my Beloved!’ And the overtones proclaiming God’s love for the world and everything in it were not lost on him. He appeared to the four fishermen like a man possessed and, looking right through Peter, Andrew, James and John, he said: ‘Follow Me.’ Without any more ado they followed him. No terms and conditions were offered or discussed. They had heard a compelling and life-changing call. There would be no going back. Jesus knew what he was about; 40 days in the desert had given him a new vision and a burning passion. Repent and believe the Good News. Wake up, look around you with fresh eyes, a new mindset, a new attitude. There’s nothing to fear. You are loved unconditionally and everlastingly. Over time the four grew into twelve, and that twelve into seventy two, and eventually into thousands…because of the power of two little words, ‘Follow me.’

The French philosopher Albert Camus once spoke to a group of Dominicans about what the world expected of Christians. “The world expects Christians to speak out, loud and clear, and confront and condemn the lies and injustice on the blood-stained face history has taken on today.” The French Dominicans had a surge in vocations. One of the great spiritual voices of the last century was Thomas Merton. He was a Trappist monk and wrote up the story of his conversion in a book ‘The Seven Story Mountain.’ It became a best seller and his journal of monastic life caught the imagination of his generation. For years afterwards, monasteries were flooded with applications. Today, the supply has dwindled to the merest trickle. Both Merton and Camus proposed an image that caught on at the time. The spark of self-sacrifice in the ‘Follow me’ of Jesus was seen and eagerly embraced. What image catches on today?

Peter, Andrew, James and John walked away from their boats that day with a lightness in their step and a song in their hearts. They found something seductive in Jesus and the ideal he proposed to them: ‘I will make you fishers of men.’ The image of fish in a net reminds us that Christianity is communitarian. Vatican 2 tells us that the source and summit of the Christian life is the Eucharistic gathering. Teresa of Avila found herself as a young nun in a community of unequals – of highborn nuns with strong personalities together with nuns who were lowborn and less gifted. That didn’t foster good community. A major part of her reform would be ‘a new style of community life where equality was fundamental – where all could be on terms of friendship, sharing the work of the house and be valued independently of their background or status’ – Rowan Williams, LUMINARIES, p. 61.

One of the most widely read religious writers in the English language, C.S. Lewis, tells of his conversion from being a convinced atheist. For years as a professor in Oxford he had stoutly resisted the temptation to accept the existence of God. One day the temptation finally caught him: ‘You must picture me alone in that room at Magdalene College, feeling the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I earnestly desired not to meet. It was in Trinity term of 1929 that I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and I knelt and I prayed, perhaps that night, the most rejected and reluctant convert in all of England’ – SURPRISED BY JOY , p. 83.  On that day he heard for the first time the life-changing words: ‘Follow Me.’

 

Fr. QQ – 1/20/2021

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