Sharing the Light of Christ
The light of Christ is a gift to all people. This is the message of the Epiphany season. Our Lord is both “a light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of God’s people Israel.”
Jesus demonstrated the universal nature of his mission by beginning his earthly ministry in Capernaum, a town in the land of Zebulun and Napthali. Not only was this land – in the far north of Palestine – surrounded by Gentiles, but it was also a major thoroughfare. It was greatly influenced by many different cultures – not unlike Southern California today.
This is where Jesus chooses to begin his ministry, fulfilling what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “The Land of Zebulun and Napthali, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death, light has dawned.”
The light of Christ is a gift to all people. And that’s a lot of people. Consider the generations upon generations of the nations of the world.
That’s a lot of light to carry across time and space. And so it is that Jesus calls others to assist him.
In Matthew, chapter 4, we find Jesus approaching Peter and Andrew, and inviting them to share in his mission.
By way of introduction, it’s worth pointing out that the disciples in this Gospel passage already know who Jesus is. We know from St John’s Gospel that Peter and Andrew were followers of John the Baptist. They had heard John speak of the Messiah. And they had even personally encountered Jesus and his teaching. It is in this context of familiarity that Jesus sees them at work along the sea, and calls to them: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Like Peter and Andrew, we too know who Jesus is. We have heard preachers and teachers speak of Jesus as the Messiah. And many of us have encountered him in various ways in our lives: in the Scriptures, in fellowship with one another, in the breaking of bread, and in our prayers. And it is in this context of familiarity that Jesus continually calls us, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
We do well to meditate on Our Lord’s words to Peter and Andrew, as they are also Jesus’ words to us.
What does it mean to follow Jesus?
For starters, Jesus’ call invites a response. Peter and Andrew respond without any hesitation or indecision. The Scriptures tell us they “immediately left their nets and followed him.” The first step is to respond to the call, “not only with our lips, but in our lives.” May God grant us the grace and courage always to respond to Jesus with the same decisiveness and faith as his first disciples.
Jesus says, “Follow me.”
And Peter and Andrew, James and John, respond to the call. But their decision to follow Jesus is not the end. It is merely the beginning of a lifelong journey, an eternal journey really.
Following Jesus is not a one-time decision. It is a daily decision, an hourly decision, an omni-present decision.
Following Jesus is both a journey and a way of life. And it is not an aimless journey or an empty way of life, but a journey with a destination; a way of life with a purpose. And that destination and that purpose are none other than Our Lord himself. Jesus is both the way… and the life.
The first step is to respond to the call: to get on the road. And once we are on the road, the objective is to stay on the road; to stay with him; to keep him in our sights; to go where he takes us; to follow where he leads. As followers of Jesus, every step we take is quite literally a decision we make.
What exactly is he calling is to do?
Jesus says, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Here we see the heart of Jesus’ call on our lives: to assist him in spreading his light – his gift of life – to the whole world.
Our culture tempts us to think the world of ourselves, with little room left for others. But Jesus invites us to help him share his light with the world.
Some days it seems hard enough just to get ourselves to church, let alone tell our friends. But Jesus invites us to help him share his light with the world.
It’s so darn easy to get lost in the logistics, and the politics, and the business of “Church.” (Believe me, I know!) But Jesus invites us to help him share his light with the world.
At the end of the day, Jesus has given us two universal commandments: 1) To love the Lord Our God with all our heart and mind and soul, and 2) to love our neighbor as ourselves.
And central to loving our neighbor is sharing with them the gift of life that Our Lord has given to everyone. Not to hide it under a bushel. But to let the light of Christ shine in us, and through us, to the world around us.
Which brings us to our final question. How are we supposed to share in Christ’s mission?
Notice that it is to fishermen that Jesus says he will make them fishers of men. He appeals to the vocation which they already have!
God does not need to force on us skills that are beyond our means, because he has already equipped each one of us with unique gifts designed to assist him in His mission.
Our job is merely to dedicate those gifts to his service. The rest is up to Our Lord. It is, after all, his mission.
Jesus did not say to the disciples, “You are fishers of men.” He says, “I will make you fishers of men.”
He is the great teacher, the master, the Messiah. When we follow him, and give his gifts back to him, he promises to equip us, to train us, to show us precisely how it is that we can assist him in his mission.
There is no need to worry about our ability; about our talents; about our gifts; about our worthiness. In Peter, Andrew, James, and John, Jesus did not pick the brightest and the wealthiest and the most popular. He picked faithful, honest, hard-working fishermen. That is all he needs. We need only be available to Jesus; to endeavor to follow him daily; and he will take it from there. He will shape and mold and teach and make us into that which he has created us to be, and for that which he has purposed to do.