Today’s Gospel text is taken from Matthew and is about those who were called by Jesus to be disciples. It is about Simon and Andrew and James and John, but it is also about us, because we are meant to be disciples as well. We are meant, because of our baptism to be committed to something greater than ourselves, something ennobling, something earth shaking. So, what does it mean to be a disciple of the Lord?
And so, let’s acknowledge today noticing, first of all, how ordinary Simon, Andrew, James and John were meant to be extraordinary. They had no formal education that we know of. Neither did they possess any particular personal attractiveness or extraordinary talent of which we are aware. They were just ordinary people. This is a common mistake we often make to assume that God calls only the most impressive, the most gifted, and the most talented people. Most great people start off as very ordinary people, and most of us believe only great people do great things. Indeed, that seems to be the exact opposite of what God does. Remember in the Old Testament when God came to Moses with the summons to go tell Pharaoh to “let my people go”. Moses responded, “Who am I that I should go to the Pharaoh”? Later Moses protested that he was to “slow of speech”; in fact, it is thought that Moses stuttered.
Saint Paul tells us in the first letter to the Corinthians, that God has deliberately chosen what the world considers foolish.
My friends, Paul is talking about the Church. God chooses ordinary people for an extraordinary work so that they will depend on God’s power and NOT THEIR OWN. For this reason, St. Paul says, no one will ever be able to boast in the presence of God.
In a little town in the Swiss Alps there is a monument with two figures on it. One is a cultured scientist, the author of many books. The other is a poor Swiss peasant, an alpine guide. Together they had conquered a great mountain. The scientist’s name made all of the newspapers but the monument contains both figures and both names. And why is that? Well, the answer is simple, the great scientist could never have made the ascent without the humble guide.
Beginning with the story of Christ’s birth no message is clearer in the New Testament, in my opinion, than this one. Christian faith is the celebration of ordinary people who come to possess a very extraordinary power. When you are asked to serve God in some capacity, don’t talk yourself out of a great opportunity by saying, “I’m too old, or I don’t have enough education,” or some other personal put down. God can give you the ability. What God can’t give you is the faithfulness to follow through. That must come from within. The first disciples that Jesus called were ordinary people. In the second place, notice what they were called to do. They were called to spend the next three years of their lives in the presence of Jesus. A disciple is one who studies with a great teacher. It is implied that those who follow Jesus need to grow and progress in faith. We don’t blossom overnight into mature spiritual giants. How do you distinguish between a flower that is alive and one that is dead? It is easy; the one that is growing and beautiful is alive. The only evidence of life is growth, progress and development. So, it is with life in the Holy Spirit.
To be alive is to grow and develop. Peter encourages us “to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” You know we have value by the mere fact that we are created by God. But God still calls us to go beyond where we are, to reach our full potential. To grow and become even better tomorrow than we have been today. Jesus invited those original followers to spend three years in his presence as disciples, learners, and students. They needed to grow, to develop, to reach their full potential. SO DO WE!
This brings me to the last thing to be said today. There would come a time when they would no longer be called disciples but apostles. Disciples are those called to come and listen and learn. Apostles are those called to go out and do. There needs to come a time when we move from being students to being teachers—to move from receiving to giving— to move from being followers to being leaders. Our Church should never have any difficulty finding persons to take on leadership positions, or serve on various councils and commissions. There comes a time when mature Christian believers realize that it is time not only to be ministered to, but also to be involved in the work of ministry itself. That was why Jesus could not remain with his disciples physically and why he does not intervene today. He wanted them and he wants us to understand that now they and we have the privilege and the responsibility of carrying on the work of God.