Georgetown Hoyas season kinda in a shambles. Big man academically disqualified for the season. On the road tonight in Omaha (the real place, which is wonderful–as opposed to the barking of that annoying quarterback). The Creighton Bluejays enjoy double-digit favor. Never thought I would live to see the day when the Hoyas would tip-off against Creighton–much less as 10-point underdogs. Pray for me.
Peter, Andrew, James, and John. “Come, follow me.”
He came to them, and invited them to put Him first. They had made their living on the water, pulling up redbelly tilapia by the dozens, in big nets. We know from reading later portions of the gospels that this particular day did not mark their absolutely last fishing trip. They would fish again. But Jesus beckoned in that moment: Let it all go for now, and put Me first.
Isaiah prophesied this moment, this beckoning of Holy Apostles by the beautiful, irresistible Christ. The Assyrians had despoiled the kingdom of Israel. Misery descended upon the People of God, the ancient heritage of Jacob. ‘What hope do we have?’ they thought. Let’s give up and give in to the bad guys. Let’s just let the promise of God fade away. We were fools to try and hold onto it anyway.
Such were the thoughts and dispirited actions of the conquered Israelites. But the prophet spoke: No! The light will shine. And the fishermen saw the light. Peter, Andrew, James, and John saw the light.
“Receive the light of Christ.” That’s what the priest says to the parents and godparents, right after baptism, handing them the lit candle. Receive the light of Christ.
Maybe we were little babies then, and mom and dad professed the faith on our behalf when we became Christians. A lot of us received the light of Christ with our mother’s milk. Some of us received it as adults.
Whichever way, either way, doesn’t matter. To have received the light of Christ means sharing in the Apostles’ moment, sharing in it right here and now—sharing in it every day, really.
He comes. He beckons. He invites. Put Me first. You don’t have to give up being who you are. I came looking for you, after all, He says. Don’t stop being who you are. But be the version of you that puts Me first.
Right now, that is what the Lord Jesus, the great Light—that is what He is asking us all to do: Put Me first. Put Jesus first. Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Okay. I don’t want to moralize right now about how we respond to this. Maybe I will moralize about it later. Right now, I just want to meditate for a couple minutes on this. Who we are is: the people who Christ personally invites to follow Him.
In other words, we are not a bunch of losers. We are not marking time in the great abyss of a boring life in a boring world. We have, each of us, something amazing to offer. And the time is now. If it weren’t, the Lord would not be beckoning us like He is.
This is the most exciting thing that could ever happen to anybody: to be personally addressed by Jesus Christ. To have Him ask me to lay aside my tilapia for now and put Him first.
It is happening to us, now, because this is the age of the New Evangelization. The time when the gospel passage about the fishermen at the seashore is coming to life anew. Peter, Andrew, James, and John, by the seashore: that moment has returned. Right now, in our day and age, every Christian has the call of an apostle. Every Christian has an intimate summons from the divine Light of the world, Jesus of Nazareth. Put Me first. Tattoo Me on your heart. Follow Me. Step out with Me. Fear no evil.
Will the New Evangelization lead to martyrdoms? It already has. Priests and laypeople have died because of their witness to Christ already in our young century. In the Middle East, in the Philippines, in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, East Africa, and Latin America. In 2002, a Catholic woman in Chicago was killed because of her faith.
This is who we are: the people Christ personally beckons to Him, to shine His light fearlessly.
Doesn’t necessarily mean that a whole lot of outward things will change in our little lives. After all, he called me to be a priest, and even considering that, I am still very much the joker I was twenty years ago.
But He beckons us into an interior realm of hard work on ourselves and total commitment to Him. He beckons us into a life of prayer and penance for the salvation of souls. And He uses us to bear witness by our very faithfulness and humble obedience to Him.
Who we are is: Fishers of men. Sailors on the high sea of souls. Equipped for adventure by the love of Christ.
Put Me first, He says. Lay down your other nonsense, and put Me first. Fear no evil. The Age of Holy Apostles has come again.
Let’s say Yes. For our sakes, and for the sake of our neighbors who need the hope that comes from seeing a faithful Christian at work—let’s say Yes.