Births and deaths have major impact on our lives. If you have children, can you remember what your life was before your 1st child was born? If one of your children has preceded you in being called home by God, what impact has that had on your life since their passing? Even the death of a pet can cause much sorrow as did the recent death of Kramer, the most loving canine I have ever been blessed with. One of the things we know is that our merciful God gives us the ability to recover from those losses and capitalize on our gains with the support of family and friends.
My loss of Kramer was nothing in contrast to the loss of a child or when Jesus experienced one of the biggest surprises in his life, that is, when his cousin John was executed. Shortly before John’s death he had baptized Jesus in the River Jordan after which the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert to accomplish what today we would call a retreat. It would not have been a surprise if Jesus would have continued his life in Nazareth, but Jesus followed the example of his father Joseph by moving from Nazareth to Capernaum to serve as a base for his ministry. Concerning Joseph example, if you recall, when Jesus was less than 2 years of King Herod was planning to kill all boys 2 years old or younger Joseph moved his business and family to Egypt. After King Herod died Joseph moved his family and business back to Nazareth. Capernaum was a town through which many trade routes passed, in a region which Isaiah defined as Zebulun and Naphtali with a large Jewish and Gentile population which was more open to new ideas than the people in Nazareth.
Now in Capernaum, Jesus knew that he couldn’t accomplish his ministry by himself, so he began to recruit followers supplement his efforts. In contrast to today, he didn’t have “Zip Recruiting” to coordinate his recruiting efforts. In fact he didn’t wait for people to apply, but as we read in today’s Scriptures, he walked along the shore of Lake Galilee and approached those who didn’t have any experience in ministry but were mere fishermen.
He approached Andrew and Peter with a softer tone than that which The Baptist had used. John the Baptist would tell the people saying, “Repent, the Kingdom of God will soon be here.” All Jesus said to the two brothers, Andrew and Peter as they were casting their nets into the lake was, “Come with me and I will teach you how to bring in people instead of fish”, and they dropped their nets and went with him. Walking on, Jesus met two more fishermen, James and John who were with their father mending their nets and he asked them to come with him and they, as well left their father and everything else and went with Jesus. Back then it was more normal for students to select a person they would follow, but in this case, just as in the case of you and me, Jesus chose them as well as you and me to be his followers. Jesus called them to a dramatic change in lifestyle/vocation and of course, he had empathy for them in that, not too long back, he too had moved from working as a carpenter just as asking them to move from working as fishermen. In today’s world, Zip Recruiters would not have looked at them because they didn’t have the right experience.
Jesus’ message to the people then and to us now, was essentially the similar me as that of John the Baptist but instead of saying “Repent” he said, “Come with me and I will teach you how to bring in people instead of fish”. Jesus continued his message by telling them and us was that we are to be “Fishers of people.” “Come with me” in contrast to “Repent” means that we are to do that which is necessary to assure that we can do God’s will and God’s Kingdom will be done. We can dwell in this Kingdom provided we are continually willing to die to ourselves and live as Jesus has taught us and continually invite God to help us do what we are unable to do by ourselves, to change and recreate ourselves as needed.
As exemplified by the people Jesus chose as his apostles, Jesus didn’t ask them about their ability to be spiritual leaders, he only asked if they were available. He didn’t ask them if they had received “A’s” in temple studies. All he said was come follow me and they did. Their vocations began with their acceptance to follow him and ours began when we were baptized and continues until he calls us home.
Let’s be thankful for Jesus’ calling us to discipleship and to be, as he was, a shining light in this world by preaching the Good News along with exhibiting mercy, forgiveness and love by the way we live our lives.