When my brothers and I were in college, we had the opportunity to work as dockhands for three summers at a boat marina in Okoboji, Iowa. Our labor at the local lake wasn’t nearly as grueling as fishermen in ancient Israel, yet I still find myself relating to Simon, Andrew, James, and John… slightly. These four men were so convicted by the simple calling of Jesus when He said, “Come after me,” that they immediately abandoned everything to follow Him. How strong the divine gaze must have been from Jesus and how confident His tone must have sounded to compel these men to leave their livelihoods behind! The Letter to the Hebrews (4:12) mentions that “The word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.” If I truly lived and believed that passage from scripture, how much more seriously would I let the words of Christ influence my life? Would I be ready to abandon the world and come after Jesus instead? My trust is sorely lacking compared to the fishermen!
It is likely that most of us are not being called to physically leave our families, homes, and occupations behind to follow Jesus, but I think there are spiritual lessons to learn from this Gospel passage, especially in this year of St. Joseph that runs until December 8, 2021. When Jesus invited James and John to follow Him, the Gospel specifically mentions that they left their biological father, Zebedee, in their fishing boat to pursue Christ. With that emphasis, I think this offers us an opportunity to contemplate how we are cultivating a relationship with the foster father of Jesus (and hence our spiritual foster father), St. Joseph. We know he must have been compassionate but strong as he helped raise the Son of God. He wants to show that same love to us that he showed Jesus. Let’s look to Joseph this year to help us fulfill today’s psalm and teach us the way to God.