It all began, centuries before the dawn of the digital age, with a simple invitation to follow him and a quick response to build the largest religious institution the world has ever known with approximately 1 point- something- billion- members and counting (faithful and unfaithful included). That said, we cannot underestimate nor take for granted the impact of a humble, gracious, and friendly personal invitation as it has proven to work and yielded unimaginable results. We’re told that after hearing the call, they immediately, not pre-meditated, dropped their nets and followed him not on twitter or Facebook but on the way, entirely embracing the gospel way of life.
By way of introduction to Jesus’ public ministry, Matthew kicks it off by taking us back, giving us a foretaste of Isaiah’s quotable verse highlighting the fulfillment of prophecy in Jesus in a specified geographical location that is, Galilee, a bustling, sprawling open city by ancient standards, livelihood stemming mostly from farming and fishing industries with tremendous outside cultural influences:
“Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen (Mt. 4:15-16).”
For Matthew, it was in Galilee that Jesus called his first disciples.
“As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him (Mt. 4:18-20).”
Similarly, in the case of James and John, the sons of Zebedee responded quickly.
“He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him (Mt. 4:21-22).”
When this occurred, Jesus wasn’t sitting in the desk in the comfort of his office making calls. He wasn’t standing in the corner of congress st. and broadway blvd. in downtown Tucson, a perfect spot to chance upon a prospect. He was out-on-the-go while the would-be disciples were tied up at work hauling their nets. They weren’t just sitting around by the bay as the case would have been watching passers-by…hoping to get noticed…gazing at the horizon…a la buena vista…They were fishermen, by profession. They did it for a living, not for recreation and leisure. For them, to leave their livelihood, their bread and butter, their means of survival in a tough environment and most importantly, abandon their father in the middle of work to a Galilean preacher who promised nothing but an assurance, was not an easy thing to do.
Because it was prompt, it happened quickly which sounded too good to be true, I figured Jesus must have met them before. It appeared he was familiar with them. Strange as it may have seemed, there wasn’t much talking involved, no further details as to the extent, no signed contract if need be, no term limits, no iffy’s and buts, no hint of hesitation whatsoever, none of that. It’s hard for us to relate in a story that doesn’t much count the human aspect, the various stages we go through in making a lifetime decision. Even if it’s a simple item you want to buy in the mall, it takes time to figure out whether or not you’ll swipe your credit card in exchange for a stuff. Even in Facebook, twitter and other networking sites, getting a friend request from someone unfamiliar makes you shiver…who in the world is this? por favor, check the profile pic, photos, background, leads and posts in the timeline if it’s worth hitting the confirm button. As experience tells us, following someone goes through different stages: issue of trust, questioning, curiosity, seeking, etc. Similarly with Jesus, before we arrive at a pivotal turn, at a critical point, you get to know the person first before deciding to open your heart and risk your life to something beyond our capacity to comprehend. A personal choice usually takes place at the end all things considered.
But, what if the author told us the story exactly as it happened? What if it really took them just a quarter of a second, even less in my estimation, to make the decision? When you finally make a choice, you’re in for the long run and the details aren’t that important. When you drop the nets, you leave everything else behind driven by the mission God wants you to do. What if the early Christians wanted to let us know that when sign up, don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t demand for anything because no amount of money can compensate you for the job and for what you’re about to get into.
Paul was right on target in the second reading as he addressed the Corinthian community experiencing inner strife “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul didn’t see it firsthand. He was only informed about this. He urged them there should be no fights and quarrels, jealousies and rivalries, stop the bickering, pettiness and divisions, none of these things have place in the community. He reminded those who claimed allegiance to various religious leaders like Paul, Apollos, Cephas, and Christ to seriously reflect on their sense of loyalty as many say, I belong to Benedict XVI, I belong to Francis, help me..I’m missing out…
“I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you may be united in the same mind and in the same purpose. For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers and sisters, by Chloe’s people, that there are rivalries among you.”
I have no doubt in my mind that there’s more to the gospel than meets my senses. They must have seen something extraordinary in Jesus, in the unknowability of God and to the extent possible, in fishing that prompted them to drop their nets. Amen.