St. Jerome said Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ. So each week as we begin listening to the Word of God our response is to say “thanks be to God.” Yes, thanks be to God for his revelation of himself. Yet we also learn how to respond to his revelation by listening and meditating on the word that we have been given. So we must constantly remind ourselves that in each story there is something for us to learn about God and something for us to learn about how to respond to God.
It is far too easy for us to get caught up in the story and miss its meaning for us. This week’s readings about Jonah and the call of Simon, Andrew, James and John is one of those kinds of stories. The first thing that one would reflect on is the absolute and total response of the disciples. They just dropped everything and followed Jesus. It seems incredulous that anyone would just drop everything and follow someone who came along and said follow me. They left family, friends, and their means of making a living apparently without a thought about what they were leaving behind.
I was thinking of their response in the context of what our response would be if our boss, principle or authority figure such as police, parent or even priest came to us and said come with me. Most of us could not avoid the thought that something is wrong. What have we done and we would start to think of what could be the matter. We would mentally be formulating a response to any wrong we could imagine. Their demand that we go with them would not be something we would consider as good. But then again, if we knew the person extremely well, it is possible that we would not be concerned. In fact, the more we truly know the person the less negative would be our response to their request.
As we look at the disciples dropping everything to follow Jesus, if we immerse ourselves in scripture, we would see their response was not as spontaneous as it seems. But since scripture teaches us how to respond, we need to understand that we too are called to follow Jesus. So how can our response be as theirs was – totally committed to following Jesus? I believe the answer as always is found in the scriptures and we need to look no further than last week’s gospel. Remember as the disciples of John followed Jesus they asked him “where are you staying.” Jesus in response said “come and see.” They went and stayed with Jesus.
All of us have gone to stay with someone in their home for an extended stay. Someone you have never stayed with before. When you stay with someone you are guided by their schedule. Your meals, your conversation, your entertainment and your activities are guided by your host. You are in their environment and their values are revealed to you in their home décor to their choice in music, television or movie watching. Their interaction with you and among themselves lowers those barriers we all put around us to hide who we are from others. In one sense we become intimate with those we stay with and we learn things about them and they learn things about us.
The disciples did not just meet Jesus on the shore that day; they had stayed with him and shared thoughts and meals with him. Their stay was more than one day, for Andrew went to get Simon and told him “”we have found the Messiah, come and see.” Scriptures show us that Simon went with his brother and stayed with Jesus. How long they stayed with Jesus is unknown, but we can see why they followed him so easily. It was because they were already intimate with him and out of that intimacy grew trust and faith in him.
Compare their response with that of Jonah when he was called. Jonah’s response to his call was to run away. He eventually got where God intended for him but it was not because he was willing. His response and that of the disciples give us great insights for our own opportunities to follow Christ.
We can assume that since Jonah was a prophet that he was prayerful, faithful to the laws, attended the temple as required and was open to listen to God. But when he heard God’s call in a way that challenged his sense of righteousness he considered it inconceivable. Why would God want to extend his mercy to the ungodly? Jonah placed his own judgment of others worthiness for God’s grace above what God wanted him to do. How much like many in the church today; who judge others against their own standard of holiness not God’s standard. Jonah eventually did what God wanted but he did it grudgingly.
In Jonah we can see and learn about our own challenges not to confuse pious acts and doing even more than what is required by the law as all God requires of us. What is required of us is a total commitment to go where God leads us – even when it is out of our comfort zone or challenges our sense of worthiness. Either of our own worthiness or the worthiness of those God chooses to extend his mercy and love to through our ministering to them.
We have one task in our faith journey – love of God and love of neighbor. All we need to do is to be faithful to those two things. In the scriptures Christ tells us “apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn.15:5). Andrew, Peter, James and John followed because they had spent time with Jesus and because they did intimacy with him grew. Through that intimacy with Christ their love, trust and belief in Christ grew. From their love, trust and faith they grew to understand that with Christ all things are possible. We can either follow their example of being a disciple or the example of Jonah.