The call to discipleship has existed since ancient times. The prophets of the Old Testament and the missionaries down through the centuries heard the call to “Go,” and they went! Within the more recent history of our country, we can recall images of the Franciscan missionaries who established mission cities in what is now the southwestern part of our country, and the influence of the Jesuit Black Robes, who accompanied the French fur traders in what was then the Northwest Territory. Today missionaries continue to travel the world living among strangers and sharing with them the light of Christ.
We know that the call to discipleship is extended not just to a select few men and women whom we label missionaries, but to all people of every race, nationality, gender, creed, and ethnic background. By virtue of our baptism, we are all called to be missionaries living a life of holiness and discipleship. Jesus has commanded that we all “Go therefore, and make disciples of all the nations.” [Matthew28: 19a] However, in our efforts to reach out to others, we often experience a gap between the ideal we know should exist, and the reality we too easily accept.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus announced the reign of God and called for repentance and renewed faith. His voice was clear and direct: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” To help bring about this change, Jesus called fishermen to be his disciples, telling them that they would fish for many others. Down through the centuries, the church has called disciples to continue that effort.
Jesus would spend three years teaching his followers how to be disciples. Spiritual writer, Alice Camille puts Jesus’ efforts in simple form: “Jesus didn’t have time for elaborate explanations there on the beach, only a few moments to ask them to turn their lives around and move in a new direction. This is how it was for Simon, Andrew, James, John, and others, whatever they were doing when Jesus walked through their lives. The capacity to interrupt our lives long enough to accept his invitation with conscious intent is crucial to calling ourselves by the name---Christian. We also have to embrace the responsibility to turn, and turn again when necessary, so that we are always facing the direction that Jesus is headed.”
In our efforts to better understand what Jesus is asking of us, many have latched on to the slogan WWJD (What Would Jesus do). Trying to imitate Jesus’ behavior in specific situations is certainly a worthy endeavor. However, to respond accurately to our call to be Christians, we need to go beyond the teachings and actions of the Gospel Jesus. For those who have experienced Jesus in their lives, much more is required than figuring out what would Jesus do. Our task is to determine what the risen Jesus is doing in our lives right here and now, and what he expects us to do right here and now.
If Jesus called us today and said, “Go!” How might we respond? Many of us might say: “But, I’m not ready yet!” “I can’t leave my family.” “I’m not the kind of person to get involved.” “People might hate me.” “I can’t do it alone.” After such a litany of protests, we might hear the Lord continue to insist, “GO!” Hopefully our response would be: “Here I am…send me!”
----Deacon Wilson Shierk