Peter and Andrew had just finished their daily work of fishing. They were stretching their nets so they will dry in the sun. They are probably talking about the day’s catch, counting the profit and cursing the snags in the nets. In the distance, they notice someone walking toward them, a stranger. He looks at them, does not say hello, and says nothing about the catch of fish or the boat. He simply quietly commands, “Follow Me and He clearly expects to be obeyed.”
And they do obey, immediately, without hesitation. Did they wonder about their future, who would tend their boats? What about their families? These are all valid questions; but for Peter and Andrew these are concerns of the past. They do not seem at least concerned about their abrupt action. We wonder how they could cavalierly leave their jobs. We marvel at their lack of inquiry. They might have replied, “We did not actually decide anything, it was decided for us. We had nothing to think about, it was presented to us a foregone conclusion.”
We had always been in control of our lives and suddenly we were not, we did not change, we were changed. By whom, by this man, Peter and Andrew clearly saw His face, heard His voice and understood His words. He was no seaside mirage, no vision, but there was something beyond Him. Some force working through Him, some power driving Him. What about Jesus, did He have any questions about them? I do not think so. He just heard a voice inside that said, “Tell them to follow You.”
Peter and Andrew were not young men just starting out, they were established business men. Yet in a second all that changed, they were men open to God’s call, to God’s grace. And when we humans open ourselves to God, wonderful things can happen.
For all the horror that Adolf Hitler unleashed on this world, there are pinpoints of light. Private Joseph Schultz, a loyal German soldier, was sent to Yugoslavia. One day a Sergeant called out eight names, his among them, they thought they were going on a routine patrol.
As they came over a hill not knowing what their mission was, they saw eight Yugoslavians standing there on the brow of the hill. Five men and three women. It was only then that they realized what their mission was. The soldiers lined up, the Sergeant barked out, “Ready” and they lifted up their rifles, “Aim” and they got their sights. And suddenly in that moment of silence before they fired, there was a thud. A rifle butt fell to the ground and Private Joseph Schultz walked toward the Yugoslavians.
His Sergeant called him and ordered him back in line, but he pretended not to hear. He walked the fifty feet to the mount of the hill and joined hands with the Yugoslavians. The officer reminded him of his loyalty to the Fuhrer. There was a moment of silence when no one knew what was going to happen. But then the command, “Fire” and Private Joseph Schultz died with those other innocent men and women. What changed Private Joseph Schultz….would it have been the power of Divine Grace? The same power that changed Peter and Andrew into fishers of men?
In Private Schultz’s pocket was a letter from his mother, she was against her son’s involvement with the Nazi’s. The letter is in his military file in Berlin. She did not say anything in the letter against the war or the Nazi’s. But she speaks to him about his baptismal call to follow Christ and she ends the letter with a quote from St. Paul. “Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth, it always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres.” Peter, Andrew and Private Schultz were changed men. But note that their change meant laying something down.
The first disciples laid down their nets, which was their business, their income. Schultz laid down his rifle, it would seem there is no costless discipleship. We can all ask ourselves, “Is there anything in my life that I clutch, I hold on to? Something that keeps me from a closer union with Christ? Something I just do not want to let go of?” Not many are called upon to give their lives for Christ, or even sell all they have and give to the poor. And then follow Him like a St. Francis or a Mother Teresa.
It has been said that the longest trip most of us ever make is from the top of our heads to the bottom of our hearts. The journey to which Christ calls us is no head-trip. Christian faith is not a set of beliefs so much as it is a way of living. Jesus did not say take up your orthodoxy and your creeds and follow me. He said take up your crosses and follow Me.
Next week we will listen to the gospel of the beatitudes, so I leave you with some questions. Are you a person whom Jesus would give the name merciful? Are you a person to whom Jesus would give the name peacemaker? Are you a person to whom Jesus would give the name poor in spirit? Do you ever stop to think what it means to be a Christian?