A CALL TO FOLLOW JESUS CHRIST LIKE HIS FIRST DISCIPLES
Sunday Homily Readings – First: Isaiah 9: 1-4; Second: 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17; Gospel: Matthew 4:12-23
Have you ever felt the call to follow Jesus Christ just like His first disciples? Sometimes, it beats my imagination when I reflect on how Jesus Christ was able to influence His first disciples to follow Him. Amazingly, these men were gainfully employed and were not seeking employment. But when Jesus Christ, a stranger for that matter, called them, they left everything and followed Him immediately without hesitation. So, how were they able to drop everything and immediately follow Jesus Christ? In this Homily of 3rd Sunday readings, we shall explore how to answer the call to discipleship like Jesus’ first followers.
Who is Jesus Christ?
Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God in a unique and perfect way. He is the true God and true man in the unity of His divine Person, and the second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. He is our Messiah, who suffered and sacrificed His life with His precious blood to save humanity. Furthermore, He is the Lord of the world and of history, the only One to whom we must completely submit our personal freedom.
Moreover, He was an extraordinary teacher and Prophet who taught revolutionary messages of hope, love, repentance, and selfless service that changed the world and continue to impact lives today. His clarion call, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Matthew 4:17), was one of the most significant aspects of His ministry, which led to an abundance of people joining His cause. Through His words and actions, He inspired people to have faith and trust in God’s plan. His call to discipleship transformed people’s lives and remains an integral part of Christianity today.
Who were Jesus’ First Disciples?
Jesus’ first disciples were a group of men who lived in different locations throughout Israel but were united by their common belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and their commitment to follow Him. According to the gospel of today’s Sunday readings, Peter, Andrew, James, and John were the first disciples to be called by Jesus Christ. Subsequently, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot followed suit.
When Jesus called them, He spoke to them about the Kingdom of God and asked them to “come, follow me” (Matthew 4:19). He didn’t just ask them to follow Him; He also called them to repentance and a life of mission. Consequently, they answered His call with immediate obedience, leaving their boats and fishing nets (their jobs) to become fishers of men, preaching the gospel, and spreading the message of salvation throughout Israel and beyond. They followed Jesus Christ and became witnesses to His death and resurrection. Through their example, they showed us what it means to answer the call of discipleship.
Why did they follow Jesus Christ?
Certainly, there must be something about Jesus Christ that moved His first disciples to jettison their former occupations, which were their major sources of income, to follow Him. Presumably, they were spiritually inspired by His preaching of the gospel, His call to repentance, and the Kingdom of God. Jesus’ message was so captivating that they were willing to give up their occupations to follow Him. His message of love, hope, forgiveness, justice, equity, fairness, and peace was so powerful that it compelled other people to join Him in His mission.
Hence, by responding to the Call to follow Jesus Christ, the disciples demonstrated their loyalty and commitment to Jesus’ teachings and ideals. They knew that by following Jesus, they could make a lasting difference in the world. Moreover, they were united with one heart and one soul, sharing things in common and never allowing anyone among them to lack anything (Acts 4:32-37). This is practical Christianity.
Why Should We Follow Jesus Christ?
Jesus Christ is the way to truth, freedom, and eternal life (John 14:6; John 17:3). The call to follow Jesus Christ is an invitation to a life of commitment, dedication, and service to God and humanity. When we follow Jesus Christ, we accept the responsibility of living out His teachings and sharing His love with those around us. By answering Jesus Christ’s call to discipleship, we are allowing ourselves to be transformed into disciples who are devoted to following Him. Through obedience and faithfulness to His teachings, we can become a part of His mission to bring salvation and redemption to the world. Hence, we can be assured that our lives will be filled with the innermost joy and peace of the Holy Spirit.
What can we learn from the examples of Jesus’ First Disciples?
Jesus Christ demonstrated how even a single person can lead others and effect great change. He showed us that if we have a message of truth and compassion, it can move people to act. His disciples followed in His footsteps and faithfully responded to His call to repentance and discipleship without hesitation, leaving everything behind to follow Him and spread His message of the Kingdom of God.
Undoubtedly, their examples serve as a powerful lesson in faith and obedience and a reminder that Christians are united in Jesus Christ, irrespective of their backgrounds. Their willingness to respond to Christ’s call to preach the gospel teaches us that true faith requires action. As such, it is our responsibility to answer the call to follow Jesus Christ and to serve Him by sharing His message with the world. So, in following Jesus Christ, we should strive to exemplify the same courage and unwavering commitment as those first disciples. When He calls us, we must answer with courage, conviction, and an open heart.
How do we Answer the Call to follow Jesus Christ?
Answering Jesus Christ’s call to discipleship requires a conscious effort. St. Paul not only preached the gospel but also took a lifelong interest in the spiritual welfare of those entrusted to his care. In the second reading, He urges us to avoid discrimination and divisions of any sort and to live in unity and love with one another as members of Christ’s mystical body, the Church.
Therefore, to truly answer Jesus Christ’s call to discipleship, below are the conditions:
- We must repent from our sins, humble ourselves before God, acknowledge our brokenness, and ask for His forgiveness (Isaiah 1:18; 1 John 1:8-10).
- We must commit ourselves to a life of obedience to God and His constituted authority here on earth (Romans 13:1-7). Note: We can only disobey constituted authorities when their instructions are incongruent with God’s commands and detrimental to human life.
- We must forgive the sins of others so that our own sins would be forgiven by God (Matthew 6:14-15).
- We must love one another just as Jesus Christ loved us and be united in Christ (John 13:34-35).
- We must be willing to surrender our will and our desires to Him (Luke 22:42).
- We must be willing to deny ourselves, take up our cross every day, and preach the gospel with our lives (Luke 9:23).
- We must pray fervently and study the scriptures always in order to seek God’s guidance and stay on the path He has set out for us (2 Timothy 2:15; Romans 12:12; James 5:16-17).
Finally, the call to follow Jesus Christ is a powerful invitation to live a life of obedience, devotion, and spiritual growth, no matter the cost. It requires us to give up many of the things we once valued and cherished. But it also brings us great joy and peace as we draw closer to God and serve Him faithfully.
Moreover, the first disciples of Jesus Christ responded to His call without hesitation, leaving everything behind to follow Him faithfully, and thus their lives were transformed positively. Their obedience demonstrated the power of God in their lives, and showed that when we answer the call to follow Jesus Christ, God will equip us with all that we need. We can expect a life filled with blessings and rewards of everlasting life. Therefore, let us all answer the call to follow Jesus Christ faithfully, like His first disciples.
May the Holy Spirit give you the grace to respond to the invitation of Jesus Christ with love and fidelity by proclaiming His gospel daily, with your life, through Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Amen.
Peace of Christ be with you…
Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.
For further readings, check:
Dramatized Audio Bible