Most people believe that there is a purpose for our being in this world. We may even ask, at times, “What on earth am I here for?” We know that the answer to this question is what gives meaning to our difficult sojourn in this valley of tears. For us Christians, the meaning of our life is centered on God. “God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength” (CCC 1).
To seek God means to learn to recognize him, not only in extraordinary events, but in ordinary day-to-day life. The call of God to the Apostles in today’s Gospel came while they were attending to their daily work as fishermen. To know God means to establish a personal relationship, which requires communication with him in prayer. One of the most important ways in which God communicates with us is through his word, the Holy Scriptures. The Church reminds us of this precious treasure in today’s observance of the “Sunday of the Word of God.” Reading and meditating on the Scriptures deepens our knowledge of God and allows us to ponder his love, justice, and mercy. As followers of Christ, we should frequently turn to the word of God to foster our knowledge of him – for as St. Jerome said: “ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”
Simply knowing facts about the Lord is not enough. As our relationship with the Lord deepens, we also recognize more and more his love for us, and the only appropriate response to the love of God is to love him in return. The Lord gives us a way to show our love for him when he calls us to serve. “Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” This is the Lord’s invitation to all of us. Following the Lord means doing what he does: serving the least, the lost and the last, giving himself to others.
We can only live in this selfless, self-giving way if we are open to God’s will and detached from worldly possessions. If we are not free from attachments to comfort and security, we cannot readily follow the Lord when he calls us. This freedom is the attitude St. Paul is urging us to embrace in today’s second reading, which is at first so puzzling: “Let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully. For the world in its present form is passing away.” Detachment from the world is not ingratitude or neglect; it is readiness to make whatever God wills our highest priority.
Paul also tells us why this readiness is so important: because “the time is running out.” In our response to the call of God, we must not delay. Sts. Peter, Andrew, James and John immediately left their boats, nets and families to follow the Lord. We must not allow anything to hinder us from immediately following the Lord, not even our family and career.
What do we receive if we radically “abandon everything” to follow the Lord? The experience of Jonah gives us some insights. Jonah was at first hesitant to accept his vocation; in fact, he refused to do as God asked. But when he finally did obey, not only did he discover and fulfill his own purpose in life, but he was also an instrument of God for the conversion and salvation of the people of Nineveh. Faithfulness to God and serving as “fishers of men” benefits us and others.
As baptized Christians, we are all prophets and “fishers of men” in the modern world. Whatever God asks of us, we can be sure that prompt obedience is the most fruitful and fulfilling response. Those who are called to marriage are “fishermen” to their spouses as they help each other in the journey to holiness. Parents and grandparents are “fishermen” to their children and grandchildren, forming them in holiness from the moment they are born. All of us have a mission from God; all of us draw others to him by our witness of faith, repentance and selfless service.
We learn from today’s Psalm to pray, “Teach me your ways, O Lord.” We ask the Lord who calls us to guide us throughout our mission, so that we may discover in his will the fullness of the purpose of our life. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, the model of obedience to the will of God, who readily and with great faith proclaimed her “fiat,” pray for us and be with us in our journey to the fulfilment of God’s will.
Do I recognize God in my ordinary day-to-day life? Am I following the Lord by serving the least, the lost and the last, and giving myself to others? Are attachments to comfort and security a stumbling block to my following the Lord freely?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 17, no. 2. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.