"Come after Me" - Call of the Disciples

Homily for the Third Sunday of Year A

by Fr. Tommy Lane

When Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James and John they were not called to be like the disciples of Jewish rabbis (Matt 4:18-22). The disciples of Jewish rabbis were not called to “follow” their rabbi. The disciples of a rabbi would not speak of following their rabbi, instead they would have spoken of learning the Torah. A rabbi would not even have called his disciples, it was the disciples themselves who chose their rabbi, not the rabbi who chose them. But Jesus called his disciples, and called them to spend time with him. The call was firstly to enter into friendship with Jesus. We could say that the disciples of a rabbi studied the Torah but the disciples of Jesus studied Jesus. Jesus said to Peter and Andrew, “Come after me.” (Matt 4:19) The call was to spend time with Jesus. “Come after me.” Later when Jesus sends the twelve apostles out on a temporary mission (Matt 10), he gives them power and authority over demons and illnesses. So even when they are temporarily away from Jesus later on mission, they have the power and authority of Jesus, they are spiritually united with Jesus, and at the end of the mission they return to Jesus. The crowds leave their homes to listen to Jesus and be healed, but the disciples are with Jesus and leave Jesus on mission only to return to Jesus again. Their call is firstly to be with Jesus, “Come after me”, and then to go on mission.

When Jesus called his disciples it was not a random call. The call we heard in the Gospel today was only the beginning. It was merely preparing them for what we might say was a second call they would receive from Jesus later when he formed them into the college of the twelve apostles. Each of the four Gospels in their own diverse way show this second call of Jesus forming the twelve from the larger body of disciples. It is easier to see this in Luke because Luke explicitly says that Jesus gathered his disciples and from them he chose the twelve (Luke 6:13). This second call from Jesus into the college of the twelve apostles happened in the context of Jesus’ prayer, and once again it is easier to see in Luke because Luke writes that Jesus spent the whole night in prayer before choosing the twelve out of the disciples (Luke 6:12-13). We see then that the call of the twelve apostles arises out of the prayer of Jesus with his Father, out of Jesus’ relationship with his Father. They were specially chosen by God. Their call, their vocation, is an expression of the love of God for them. It was because God loved them specially that God chose them. I think we could surely apply to the call of the twelve what Moses says to the people in Deuteronomy, “It was not because you are the largest of all nations that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you, for you are really the smallest of all nations. It is because the Lord loves you…” (Deut 7:7–8) When Jesus called the twelve it was not because they were greater than anybody else, but because he loved them. When Jesus calls you it is not because you are better than anybody else but because he loves you. This love of Jesus for those he calls is specifically mentioned twice in the Gospel of John. As the Last Supper commences John writes, “He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end” (John 13:1) and during the supper Jesus declared, “As the Father loves me, so I also love you.” (John 15:9)

We heard in today’s Gospel that after Peter and Andrew were called they left their nets and followed Jesus (Matt 4:20) and after James and John were called they immediately left their boat and their father and followed Jesus (Matt 4:22). Of course the reason they were able to leave everything to follow Jesus is because they loved Jesus. If they did not love Jesus they would not have been able to leave everything to follow Jesus. Jesus explicitly stated on one occasion that they loved him; during the Last Supper in John’s Gospel Jesus said, “the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me…” (John 16:27) Yes, they failed Jesus during his Passion but Jesus forgave them and they were restored in the relationship of love with Jesus again. Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved him and three times Peter responded that he loved Jesus. When one loves Jesus, obeying Jesus is not even an issue. Again during the Last Supper in John Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) When one loves Jesus, suffering for Jesus does not even seem like suffering. When the apostles were interrogated by the Sanhedrin for preaching about Jesus after Pentecost, they were beaten but went home rejoicing because they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the name of Jesus (Acts 5:40). They had been called by Jesus because he loved them and their love of Jesus enabled them to do anything for Jesus.

Jesus called the apostles, “Come after me.” It was a call firstly to spend time with Jesus. Jesus called them not because they were better than others but because he loved them. The apostles responded because they loved Jesus, and because they loved Jesus obedience and suffering would not even seem like obedience and suffering. “Come after me.” They left everything and followed Jesus.

© Fr. Tommy Lane 2014

Some ideas in the first paragraph are taken from:

Martin Hengel, The Charismatic Leader and His Followers Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1996 (Translated by James C.G. Greig), 50-57

Hans Urs von Balthasar Christian State of Life Ignatius: San Francisco, 1983, 146.

This homily was delivered in Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More homilies for the Third Sunday Year A

Only Jesus is the Solution to the World’s Problems

Leave the Boat and build up God’s Kingdom

Related Homilies: If Jesus could use the Twelve apostles with their weaknesses he can use us

Answering God’s Call - Vocations in the Bible

Homilies on priesthood

Second Reading related: The Church of Jesus Christ is never my Church but always his Church 2012

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