Come After Me
When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled: Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen. From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him. He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” These words resound in the hearts of so many men and women who decide to leave everything and follow Christ in a radical way.
For me, St. John Paul II will always be one of the great icons of the faith in the modern world, with a special concern for vocations to priesthood and consecrated life, but also the mission of the young people. Preparing for the World Youth Day in Czestochowa, he wrote:
the Christian vocation is also directed towards the apostolate, towards evangelization, towards mission. All baptized persons are called by Christ to become his apostles in their own personal situation and in the world: "As the Father has sent me, so I send you" (Jn 20:21). Through his Church Christ entrusts you with the fundamental mission of sharing with others the gift of salvation, and he invites you to participate in building his kingdom. He chooses you, in spite of the personal limitations everyone has, because he loves you and believes in you. This unconditional love of Christ should be the very soul of your apostolic work, in accord with the words of St Paul: "The love of Christ impels us" (2 Cor 5:14). (John Paul II, Message for VII World Youth Day, 24 November 1991)
What are we doing to promote vocations and what are we doing to promote the faith and engagement of young people?
The first way to support vocations and young people is through prayer. The Gospel passage today recounts the beginning of a journey that would transform profoundly the lives of the men who heard the call of the Lord. We can pray for many other men and women to make that same experience. We can pray that we hear God’s call to our own lives. Each one of us has a mission in life. Christ is calling. How well are we responding? We need to set aside time for prayer each day so that the voice of the Lord can reach our hearts. Pope John Paul II would pass long hours in prayer, asking the Lord for vocations.
The second way to support vocations and young people is through our testimony. How do we speak about the Church? How do we speak about our faith? Can young people look at us as faithful witnesses to the faith we profess? Sometimes, people are curious or upset that their children are away from the Church. But then at the dinner table, there is frequent conversation about the Church in a negative fashion. How are young people going to grow in esteem and love for the Church, if the conversation they hear is always negative. Of course there are negative realities in the Church, but there are also so many wonderful realities. And the basic truth of the Church is that she is the sacrament of salvation, the vessel our Lord has chosen to get us to Heaven. This is good news and bears repeating!
Finally, we can support the activities that foster vocational awareness and young people living out their faith. Here at St. Philip’s, we are graced to host a Newman Center that focuses on students from Caltech, PCC, and Fuller Theological Seminary, as well as other students and young adults in the area. It is amazing to see so many young people coming week by week to receive formation, have fellowship and serve the Lord in ministry. Is there a young person you can invite? Is there a young person you can support? Ask a priest his vocational story. If he does not mention it, ask if he remembers having someone asking him about becoming a priest. You will find that very many do.
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Having lived for 23 years in the context of religious life, these words resound in my soul in the sense of promoting vocations to priesthood and consecrated life. But we are all called to be “fishers of men” – men and women seeking men and women who can respond to the call of Christ. Often, we arrive to the morning with our nets empty, disappointed that we do not have more to show for our efforts. But the day will come when the Lord passes by the seashore and asks us to cast our nets to the other side. The catch will be too heavy for us to pull in. What do you need to leave behind to follow Christ. Is it worldly ideology, attachment to sin or a lack of interest in your Christian formation? Whatever it is, leave it behind. Christ is worth everything we can possibly give of ourselves. As Pope Benedict said in his inaugural homily, Christ “takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ.” (Pope Benedict, 24 April 2005)