As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. (Matthew. 4:18-23).
In the Gospel which is read at this Sunday's Liturgy, we hear the words of Christ; “Come, follow Me!” What is the meaning of this invitation? When Christ said these words, He was asking His listeners to do two things: to live with Him and to imitate Him. Christ, first of all, asked the Apostles to come follow Him. The Lord had just begun the work for which He came down from Heaven. As He walked along the seashore,
He saw Peter and Andrew, and later James and John, working on their nets by the sea. They were fishermen. It was to them that the words were first spoken. These four men responded to the Lord’s call; they left their nets and went after Christ. They were the first of the Twelve Apostles. These Apostles, and others whom Christ later called, not only followed the Lord in a physical sense, they also imitated Him in their way of living. As we look upon their lives, there is something that reminds us of the Lord Jesus. Christians down through past centuries have also heard the plea: “Come follow Me!”
They could no longer follow Him physically down the dusty roads of the Holy Land, but they could imitate Him in their daily living, and this is what they did. Take the example of what happened in Antioch, Syria. After the birth of the Church in Jerusalem, Antioch became the center of growing Christianity. St. Peter was bishop there before he was Bishop in Rome. The believers in Antioch so imitated Christ, so followed Him, that the enemies of the Church began to call them names. And do you know what name they gave to those early “believers” in the Lord? They called them “Christians,” followers of Christ. Yes, this name was first used in Antioch.
There must have been something in the way those people lived and spoke that reminded others of Christ. So they called them “Christians” (followers of Christ). They didn’t realize what a marvelous compliment they were paying to those people! In the present day, this invitation also comes to us from Christ. His voice comes down from the past, and we hear it now: “Come follow Me!” We cannot follow Him physically, because He has long since gone to be with His Father in Heaven.
But we can and we must follow Him, imitate Him in the way we live. One of the great tragedies of our day is that Christians and non- Christians live practically the same lives. It is difficult to tell one from the other. Jesus once said that people would be able to tell the difference: “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, that you have love for one another.”
To truly be a follower of Christ is no easy task. Christ Himself compared it to bearing a cross. “Whoever wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.” We are to deny ourselves every sinful impulse and desire, we are to submit ourselves wholly to God’s will. We are to seek first God’s will and not our own. Every time we call ourselves Christian, we say, in effect, that we are following Christ. We must be careful to follow in deed as well as in word.