Starting Again At The Beginning

Source: Out of Egypt
Fr. James Guirguis | 27 June 2022
The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (4:18-23)

Last week we celebrated the Sunday of All Saints and we rejoiced in the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of men and women just like you and me. Today since this is the second Sunday after Pentecost, the Church rewinds and begins to replay the story of the gospel for us again. We can see that last week was a fulfillment of the whole plan of salvation which ends with the glorification and deification of those who are willing participants in God’s plan. Yet today we start again, almost at the beginning. We encounter the Lord Jesus Christ walking near the Sea of Galilee. And we see Him beginning to call the disciples. According to St. Matthew this is the first time that the Lord calls disciples, although we learn from John’s gospel that in fact Andrew was the first called disciple.

The Lord doesn’t wait for an invitation or an opening, He sees the men and He invites Himself into their lives. He sees them pursuing their livelihood and He doesn’t insult their work or their lives. He doesn’t say to them “leave behind this stinky job and come take a more glamorous and important job.” He adopts and accepts who they are and yet He challenges them to become more. He does all of this using their language. Since they were fishers, He extends a beautiful invitation to them: “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Ten words that had potential to change the history of the world. Yet what allows potential to become actualized? Decisive action. And we see exactly that from Peter and Andrew. We are told that “Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.”

Last week the Church reminded each of us of our potential in Christ, through the grace of the Holy Spirit. We saw potential that was actualized in the lives of the saints. We read about these saints and we are astonished by their lives. Men and women who sinned and fell into every manner of evil. Murderers, thieves, adulterers, idol worshippers, all of them were recreated by God’s grace through serious repentance and the cooperation with the Holy Spirit. Today the same potential is offered to each one of us again. I say again because in truth this is offered to us every day of our lives. God is never far away from us. It is we who are far away from Him and His Church.

Today we are again invited to rededicate our lives and our hearts to following Jesus Christ wherever He will lead us. What am I missing, why am I not transformed into a saint? What I am missing is decisive action. He asked the disciples to follow Him and they immediately left everything. Christ our Lord asks each of us to follow Him but how do we respond to that calling? Are we slow to respond? Are we afraid of what it will cost us to follow Him? Are we lazy? Are we too comfortable with our lives and our stuff? What is standing between us and Christ? What is preventing us from immediately and decisively choosing to turn our focus to Christ and living for Him daily? These are the difficult questions that we should ask ourselves, because God and His kingdom are worth it.

The Lord holds out this invitation for each of us. To what are we being invited? To a new purpose for our lives, to refreshment, to unending light and joy, to Christ’s presence, to the kingdom, to salvation, to transformation, to eternal life. Christ never tries to take away from our lives. He desires to strip away what is necessary and to remove whatever is a hindrance to our growth as His children. The invitation to follow Him is the beginning of a new life for those who take this calling seriously. The Lord says “Come with Me, follow Me, be with Me and I will change you in ways you can’t imagine.”

And what happened to those men who faithfully followed the Lord? They were changed, transformed and healed through their encounter and their openness to Christ. They opened their hearts to Him and He conquered their lives. And what the Lord did, He allowed His disciples to also do. To teach, to preach and to heal the people. Such is the power of God when we allow Him into our lives and we obey Him in a serious way, with conviction.

Not much in our spiritual life is more important than this virtue of obedience. And virtually every one of the Church fathers mentions obedience, firstly the obedience to God as this is the seed for humility.

St. Diadochos of Photiki writes, “It is well known that obedience is the chief among the initiatory virtues, for first it displaces presumption and then it engenders humility within us. Thus it becomes, for those who willingly embrace it, a door leading to the love of God.”

St. Heychios the priest writes “We should of our own free choice gladly cut off our whole will through obedience. In this way, with God’s help, we shall become to some degree tractable (easy to control or influence) and free from self-will.”

St. Gregory Palamas goes further in his encouragement to us saying “Life of the soul is union with God, as life of the body is union with the soul. As the soul was separated from God and died in consequence of the violation of the commandment, so by obedience to the commandment it is again united to God and is quickened. This is why the Lord says in the Gospels, ‘The words I speak to you are spirit and life’ (Jn. 6:63).”

Finally, St. Cyril of Alexandria reminds us of the example of the obedience of Christ as he writes “But human nature, which fell sick through the disobedience of Adam, now became glorious in Christ through His utter obedience. For it is written that as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous (cf. Rom. 5:19).”

Everything that we need and that we truly desire is offered to us by Jesus Christ. It is all hidden within this word, this invitation, “Come follow Me.” Follow Him daily. Read His words, implant them in your heart, implement them in your life. Follow His example of life. This is the start of a Christian life, just as it was the start of a new life for the disciples who obeyed Him that day on the Sea of Galilee. May we also strive to be worthy disciples to the glory of God. AMEN.

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