1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17
In our Gospel reading from Matthew, we hear the account of Jesus calling His first disciples in Galilee. When Jesus sees Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea, He says to them, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of people." So Simon and Andrew leave their nets and follow Him. Jesus then comes upon James and John, who are also fishermen. They are mending their nets. Jesus calls them, and they leave everything, and follow Jesus.
The image of James and John mending their nets speaks to me about discipleship. For a fisherman, mending one’s nets is a worthwhile thing. But if James and John continued mending their nets, they could not follow Jesus.
Sometimes there are things that we continue to do that prevent us from following Jesus. Our reading from Isaiah says, "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone." Sometimes we hold on to the "gloom" in our lives because, as painful as it may be, it still is more comfortable than making the changes necessary to live a better life. At other times, we may hold on to the "darkness" of our prejudices and biases, rather than taking the risk to love as Jesus loves.
The challenge for us is to answer the call to follow Jesus. To do that, we need to discern what we need to hold on to, and what we need to leave behind. As we continue our spiritual journey, we find that there are more and more things we need to leave behind. For instance, we may have begun loving others in order to get love in return. But as we follow Jesus, we realize that He loves us without conditions. And so we are called to love without calculating what we might receive in return. Another example is doing what we do in order to get esteem or applause. Our call is to use our gifts for the sake of the Good News, not for our own glory!
The ability to discern what we need to let go of, and the willingness to let go of these things, do not come from us. They are gifts of God’s grace. But as we are more and more open to following Jesus, we will receive the grace we need to be His disciples. The more we are His disciples, the more people who "live in darkness" will see a "great light," the light of Christ bringing forth God’s love to the world!
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P. is the director of St. Paul of the Cross Retreat and Conference Center, Detroit, Michigan.