The Desire to Follow Jesus
- Sunday, January 21, 2018
- By Father Robin Ruder-Celiz
What is it about Jesus that is so compelling? What did those first disciples see in Jesus as he walked along the shore calling them to follow him? This is a fascinating passage from Mark in that Mark points to the charismatic energy of Jesus. For reasons unknown in this passage, Simon, Andrew, James and John leave what they are doing and immediately follow Jesus.
Immediately is an important word in Mark’s gospel. Everything happens immediately. Just before our Gospel today, Mark writes that the “Spirit immediately drove [Jesus] into the wilderness” (Mark 1: 12). There is a sense of urgency with Mark. I wonder if this sense of urgency is a reflection on the world in which Mark is writing. This is a world that has been waiting for the Promised One. This is a world that has heard John the Baptist say to the people, “take heart, something and someone better is coming.” While it is hard to know if the disciples knew ahead of time that this very person walking along is “The One;” we do know that they followed immediately. There must have been a sense deep down where they just knew that this was ‘The Promised One’ they had to follow no matter what. Perhaps you have similar experiences in your life. Times when you are going about your business and for reasons you can’t explain you just know that now is the time for something different, to make a different choice, move in a different direction. It is that gut instinct we all have when we know that something is so right, or so right now. It is only afterwards, once we have followed our gut that we can reflect on those moments and find the meaning and understanding for such decisions.
For me one such moment was the decision to come to seminary and begin my formal education for the priesthood. As I was moving through the official process of discernment for ordination, I hadn’t made up my mind as to which seminary I would attend or when exactly I would go. I liked my bachelor suite in Kelowna directly on the shores of Okanagan Lake and I was in no rush to give that up. My nursing career at the time was also becoming more established as I built up my seniority in the hospital.
All along I knew I was called to be a priest. That, since the time I can remember, had always been the goal. One of the official steps in the process for ordination is a weekend event known as ACPO or the Advisory Committee on Postulants for Ordination. This is the national discernment process that is provincially run. During this intense weekend of interviews and questioning where your behavior, the conversations you have with whom and when are scrutinized; two things happened. The first was that I met Liz who was undergoing the same process and the second was a sudden and immediate realization that now, this year was the year I would go to seminary. The year 2004 was the year I would move out of my bachelor suite away from the beach, boating and other trappings of Okanagan Lake and move to Vancouver to begin a new chapter in my life. I could have waited another year. I could have and certainly thought about doing my education in Toronto. But during that weekend, for reasons I couldn’t explain then, I knew I had to go and I would go to Vancouver and VST. In hindsight, perhaps because Liz lived in Vancouver and also went to VST might have had something to do with it as well.
How about you? When have been moments and decisions in your life that you just knew that this was something you had to do and it had to be done now? In a world where we are surrounded by options and choices, what was it about Jesus that made you decide Jesus was the one you would follow? What is it about Jesus that causes you to continue to follow him?
This is where the rubber hits the road. Almost anyone can say “yes” to someone or something once. For you or I to continue to return and say, “yes Lord, here am I” takes something special. A special kind of charisma and energy. Sometimes we lose the thread of this charisma. Sometimes, slowly but surely we feel ourselves slipping away. Kids grow up and leave for university and thus the need to go to Church for their sake diminishes. We get tired of the same old same old and we begin to slip away. We may even find ourselves becoming complacent. The initial spark and enthusiasm we once had for church, relationships, work and extracurricular activities inevitably begins to fade in the same way as a new exercise regime may soon lose its initial appeal and novelty.
It takes work and the constant renewing and reimagining of our commitments and dedication to maintain and sustain those aspects of our lives that are important. Following Jesus, being faithful in church and living a life based on our faith takes work. Constant work and dedication. Being a follower of Jesus is not a once off event, but rather a way of life that demands total commitment from all aspects of our lives. Those first disciples who immediately left the security and familiar to follow Jesus new this all too well. They too had times when they doubted. They too had times when they got disillusioned. They too wondered what the point of all this really was. They too lost the thread of charisma that first compelled them to follow. They too realized that following Jesus was a way of life that needed to be cared for and nurtured. For some, it cost them their lives. It will cost you yours and mine. In part that’s what Baptism is about.
What is it about Jesus that keeps you following? Pay attention to that. Nurture that initial spark and always remind yourself of the first reasons you said “yes” to Jesus and to God. When we pay attention to that spark, to the reasons new and old as to why we bother, why we continue to follow Jesus we will find that no matter how far we have gone, no matter how many times we lose the thread or get disillusioned we will always find Jesus right beside us saying come, “follow me and I will make you fish for people” (Mark 1: 17). This very passage came true for us at St. Martin’s following the Midnight Mass this past Christmas. A visitor, on leaving after the service said, “we fulfilled her.” Wow. Somehow someway what we do matters and touches the lives of people in deep and profound ways. Pay attention to the thread, the charisma of Jesus that once compelled you to follow.