While Our Lord Jesus walked on the face of the earth, the people he encountered recognized in him an extraordinary man. Those that listened to him were enlightened by his words and teachings. The prophesy of Isaiah written many centuries earlier was fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. We heard the words of this amazing prophesy twice today, in the first reading and again in the Gospel: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined (Is 9:2). The light the people of Galilee received, enabled them with time to recognize in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, none other than the very Son of God.
Though we were not born in Palestine during the times of Jesus, we have nevertheless received the gift of faith from previous generations of believers, which has passed on from generation to generation and is the guiding light of our lives. This light of faith is truly a great gift of God, which we cherish as our most valuable treasure, that gives our lives meaning and purpose, enlightens our minds, awakens love in our hearts towards God and our neighbour. Through faith we have come to accept and profess that Jesus Christ is indeed God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God.
At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus went about the region of Galilee and on one occasion, while walking along the seashore he came across two brothers Peter and Andrew, who were fishermen, busy at work. Jesus saw them and recognized some hidden potential in these men. The gaze of Jesus, is something truly special and creative, for through it, Jesus is able to penetrate the outer form of our appearance and recognize something good within us that is waiting to be realized. He is able to see a generosity that even we ourselves are unaware of, a hidden talent ready to be unravelled and shared with others.
During this journey, after encountering Peter and Andrew, he said to them simply follow me. The Lord did not hand out orders by saying ‘you must’ follow me, but rather gave an invitation of friendship. Here we see the essence of the Christian vocation which is an offer given to us by God, which we can freely accept or reject as we wish. God does not force himself on anyone, yet he offers his companionship to all who desire it freely. The calling of the first apostles is therefore our calling to a new vocation. Christ’s invitation to follow him, is a call to realize our full potential, to become a true man or woman, created in the image and likeness of God, a person capable of sharing and caring, giving and forgiving, sacrificing and enduring, living and witnessing! No one can therefore think or say that he or she has nothing to give, or consider oneself any less worthy or capable than these simple fishermen of Galilee.
Our response to Christ can be positive just as his invitation is very positive. We can open our hearts to Christ and say ‘yes, I will follow you Lord’ because you are the light of the world and make all my paths straight and secure. You enlighten my mind with the truth of existence; there is no other God than you and you are the life giving spirit that sustains each human being and everything that exists. You awaken in my heart a desire for the truth, which you embody and teach; the truth that liberates me from all the false idols that I can easily fall prey to. You are the life to be lived, that makes my existence meaningful, more humane and at the same time that much closer to the divine.
The two brothers left their nets and followed him. They did not hesitate, they didn’t think twice, they left everything behind them and followed Jesus. Their reply is an inspiration for us all to leave behind the things of the past, do away with the old, to forget about previous failures and hardships in order to embark upon a new adventure into a deeper relationship with God. The Lord’s invitation in essence is to discover our hidden talents and put them to use for God, the good of others and ourselves, to reach the highest goals we can with the help of God’s grace.
At this point it is good to remind ourselves of the need to be united to Christ in order to achieve this desired goal. Our personal unity with Jesus also leads to a common unity in the community of the faithful, which is the Church. We are currently in the week of prayer for Christian unity. St. Paul teaches us in the second reading today: Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose (1 Cor 1:10). All of you are to be in agreement and there are to be no divisions among you! As you know, in this region of the world, our local Church community is comprised of various Catholic faithful coming from many countries and belonging to different rites. All are therefore called by Christ to be united amongst themselves and with the local Bishop. One cannot sufficiently express the vital importance of unity in this region where although belonging to different ethnic, cultural and language groups, we are all one in Christ the Lord and united in his Church.
Let us therefore open our hearts and minds to Christ the Lord whose teaching is the light of our lives, that takes away all darkness and unites us with God and our brothers in the faith. May the light of his grace produce a positive change in us and enable us to accept his invitation to new life, so that others will be able to see in us Chirst-centered or Christ-friendly people.