Follow Him – simple.
How do you put a giraffe into a refrigerator? Studies show that all adults get the answer to this question wrong. Only small children under five years old answer it correctly. The answer? Open the refrigerator, put the giraffe in and then close the door. This question tests whether you are doing simple things in a complicated way.
God simply wants us to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him. The message is clear and uncomplicated. My cricket coaches at school and club level taught me to use three commands when communicating with my fellow batsman. They were ‘Yes’, ‘No’, ‘Wait’. Anything else would have resulted in miscommunication and would have caused one of us to be run out.
In this week’s gospel, the first four disciples drop everything and follow Jesus. There is nothing else for them. They leave behind everything that people hold dear, and turn to the gospel. The decision is not a difficult one for them because it is something for which they have been waiting and searching.
Their decision is embodied by the parable in Matthew 13:44, The kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. The man who finds it buries it again; and so happy is he, that he goes and sells everything he has, so that he may buy that field.
The wise men similarly do something strange by leaving the comfort and familiarity of their homelands to endure the xenophobia, discomfort of travelling, a strange culture and the stresses of everything that is different in a new land. But, in the case of the wise men and the case of the disciples, they are confident that the heavenly glory that awaits them will firstly trump the hardships that will come as a result of making that decision and, more importantly, bring meaning to their lives.
They know something that is real and true that has not been revealed to everyone. But, it is exhilarating to them and inspiring to their friends and families.
The conversion experience is the focus of the gospel message once again. The Holy Spirit cannot be denied. We, like the disciples, are invited to take part in life-giving sacrifice but this is also extremely fulfilling and deeply meaningful.
Three out of the four disciples in this week’s gospel are present at the transfiguration. I imagine that this experience of being invited by Jesus to follow Him can compare to the euphoria of the transfiguration. In reality, it cannot, but it would have been an extremely joyous experience for them.
It seems simple that they would leave their nets and follow Jesus but on deeper contemplation, we realise that they would have left the familiar life of a profession that they would have grown to know and perhaps love. So, it was a huge personal sacrifice on their part.
I can share in the joy of the disciples through my own involvement in Ministry. But what should we do when that transfiguration experience is over? What do we do when we come down from the mountain and return to the normalcy of life? We stand firm and cling to our mission. The lyrics of an appropriate hymn come to mind – “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, That you do unto Me.”
We get many opportunities to follow the gospel. And these come every day. We are continually presented with the chance for conversion. We are called upon to be followers of Christ and are always reminded that reconciliation is available to us.
God is aware of the nobility of our intentions but what is required from us is the sincerity of purpose. The disciples’ journey after their beautiful and touching conversion experience was not an easy one. They were constantly tested as we would expect to be when we say yes to the Lord. Let us be strengthened by the memory of God’s invitation and love, and His merciful goodness to us.
Oh, the love of my Lord is the essence
Of all that I love here on earth.
All the beauty I see
He has given to me
And his giving is as gentle as silence.
Rene Lee John is currently a parishioner at Holy Trinity Church, Arouca and formerly at Holy Rosary Church, Port of Spain. He is an advocate of stewardship and an eternal optimist.