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“Immediately Jesus called them; and they left . . . and followed him.”
(I speak to you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit . . .)
The Gospel according the Mark has a distinctive urgency about it. Did you hear how immediate and fast moving the action was in the snippet we just heard. Within just a few verses, Jesus announces his message and immediately starts calling folks to come along with him to start spreading the news!
And did you notice how quick those folks were to respond to the call – they dropped everything – immediately and followed Jesus. For Simon Peter and Andrew, then James and John – that instant when they heard Jesus call their names — their moment of conversion – it must have been powerful and pointed. Immediately they followed and it seems they never looked back!
For me – that’s the miracle of these few verses. The miracle is that they left everything behind — definitively and immediately. When I observe and talk with people – and when I reflect on my own proclivities to hold back, to doubt, to procrastinate, find excuses – to cling to the past — — this immediate move to follow Jesus seems even more miraculous!
The physical presence and irresistible charisma of this man Jesus as He strolled along the sea had such a powerful attraction! Peter and Andrew left their jobs – left their source of income. And James and John left their father and perhaps the rest of their family as well – and they did it immediately without reserve.
Our ability to follow Jesus when He calls our name – even our ability to hear His call — depends totally on our willingness to let go – our willingness to leave the past behind. And to do that we have to be willing to see our selves as new creatures in Christ – as Paul wrote:
“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.”
Jesus has given us a ministry of reconciliation.
The great spiritual writer Henri Nouwen obseves that reconciliation must happen on three levels – he calls it “The Three Movements of Hospitality”: First we must reach out to our innermost self. Second, we must reach out to our fellow human beings. Third, we must Reach out to our God –reconciliation with self, reconciliation with others, reconciliation with God.
Reconciliation can happen only when we are willing to see ourselves and others as Christ sees, allowing ourselves the space to be true, allowing others the space to be themselves. This means honoring our Baptismal vow to respect the dignity of every human being. That Baptismal vow includes respecting our own dignity – loving ourselves – our true selves – loving the self-identity we so often hide.
The great gift of reconciliation is freedom – and the freedom to follow Jesus when He calls our name comes only through reconciliation: with ourselves, with God, and with our families and communities. Only then are we totally free to really follow . . .
Let’s consider for a moment how we might personally hear Jesus’ call to follow – how we might come to know the revelation of God’s loving will for our lives. It may seem difficult at times to hear Jesus’ call, even when our deepest desire is to follow. We cannot create this call ourselves – and sometimes we must wait: wait for the Lord…
But how do we actually hear Jesus’ call to follow Him?
Jesus’ voice can come to us in many ways. I’m going to suggest three spiritual practices that can help keep us tuned into His voice. We might call them “awareness practices”:
First, we can listen to the call of our own conscience – quiet our internal chattering and tension and chaos the best we can – and then listen to Jesus speak through the lips of our hearts – listen for that still, small voice that arises from inside. We can take the time to pray, take the time to be quiet –always leaning on faith always confident that God will take it from there. And when His voice arises from within allow it to speak, listen to it freely and honestly. Then – follow . . .
The second way we can attune ourselves to hear Jesus when he speaks to us is to listen for the call of God’s Word in scripture. We can approach scripture reading sessions with open minds and receptive hears – and lean on faith . . . trusting that the Holy Spirit is alive and moving through scripture.
When I say the Word of God is alive, a living word, I mean that scripture speaks to us. It speaks specifically– with the message that is meant for us in this specific moment. We can trust that this voice is alive. And when you hear it, sense it, feel it – follow . . .
A third way we may hear Jesus speaking to us: His call may come through the voice of others, a friend or a family member. Or we may find a message being affirmed by many different people coming from different directions, different angles, different perspectives. When all these pieces come together, pay attention to them, honor them.
And we must remember that God’s call can come to us not only through friendly voices. God’s call can also be revealed through voices that come across as “not so kind” – the voices that seem to threaten or manipulate or domineer – even the voices that abuse or reject. Rejection or the fear of rejection in any kind of relationship – within families, among friends, in communities . . . rejection and the fear of rejection can leave us in a very dark and painful space. Yet as we move through that darkness, at some point we discover that God is saying “It’s time to let go, time to leave, time to move ahead.” This is Jesus’ call to leave the past behind and – follow . . .
The good news of the Gospel today is that “The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God has come near.” God’s transformative, redeeming work is happening now all around us and deep within us. Jesus’ call to us is to “repent and believe in the good news.” It is a call to let go of anything that is not of Christ, a call to cling to Him alone.
Jesus chooses us – Jesus calls us . . .
What might be blocking your ability to hear His call? Is there something you must give up – let go of – in order to follow . . . in order to follow freely and joyously?
Pray for grace to hear, grace to discern . . . pray for grace to let go, grace to follow.
And pray for grace to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly – walk humbly with your God.
For meditation and reflection:
Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?
Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?
Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean in you and you in me?
Will you love the “you” you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?
Lord your summons echoes true when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
In Your company I’ll go where Your love and footsteps show.
Thus I’ll move and live and grow in you and you in me.
(by John Bell, Wild Goose Resource Group, The Iona Community, GIA Publications, Inc.)