“Come and you will see.” The Lord speaks this invitation to two of John the Baptist’s disciples. One of these was Andrew, the brother of Peter. They had heard John point to Jesus and say: “Behold, the Lamb of God.” The evangelist tells us they were following Jesus but at a distance. This may be interpreted as though they were curious but not sure of themselves or perhaps the person whom they were following.
Jesus reaches out to them with the simple yet meaningful invitation “Come and you will see.” They stay with him and soon come to the realization that he is the Messiah, the Christ. Andrew then goes out to invite his brother Peter to come with them.
The short passage recalls one of the accounts of the call of the first disciples. The invitation to discipleship is an invitation to life. Jesus comes from the Father to make him known. Not only that, as we saw in last week’s celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, Jesus invites them to become children of God. In the “call” accounts from the Gospels according to Matthew and Mark, Jesus uses the words, “Follow me.”
In both recollections, Jesus is inviting these people into a relationship with him and through him with the Father. Notice that he says: “Follow me.” The call to discipleship involves a relationship with God through Jesus. He is the focus. Being with Jesus they will hear what he says and see what he does but the “following” of Jesus is much more comprehensive than that. It involves everything about Jesus.
As the relationship develops, not just with these first disciples but for many, he will later say: “I do not call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father” (John 15:15).
Another image Jesus gives, just before calling his disciples “friends,” is the vine and the branches. “I am the vine, you are the branches,” he says to them. The image conveys the meaning that life comes through him. So long as the branches are connected to the vine they will live, grow strong and their fruit will be abundant. So Jesus is the way by which God the Father invites us and allows us to participate in divine life.
The disciples begin to follow Jesus. They leave behind what they were doing. Their priorities are being reorganized. In other words, their “world view” is beginning to develop around Jesus and his proclamation of the Kingdom. One element that is necessary for the life of disciples, then and now, is an openness to hear the invitation and to accept it. The first reading for Sunday’s liturgy provides us with some guidance.
Samuel and Eli are in the Temple sleeping. In his sleep, Samuel hears the Lord calling. “Here I am,” he replies. However, he mistakenly thinks Eli is the one calling. Eli then tells him to go back to sleep. The same thing happens again. After it happens a third time Eli realizes what is going on and explains to Samuel what to say should he hear those words again. Samuel returns to sleep and once again hears the call: “Samuel, Samuel.” At this point he says, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
Samuel manifests a willingness to listen. You may recall that “listening” and “obedience” are closely related words in the Scriptures. Listening to God demonstrates a willingness to be led. Obedience is a response to God in faith and trust. In other words, following him.
We also notice God’s great desire, persistence and patience. Four times in total he gives the call to Samuel. It is not until the final time that Samuel, with the help of Eli, realizes what is going on. God is consistent in his call. He does not give up on Samuel nor grow impatient but steadily and gently speaks his invitation, His call.
Following the Lord is an ongoing part of our lives as is renewal. In the church, we have just completed our celebration of the Christmas season. Every year at about the same time we begin to hear in the cycle of readings the beginning of the public ministry and the call to discipleship. The Gospel accounts afford us the opportunity to reflect on God’s activity in our lives and our response.
The secular world has its “New Year’s resolutions,” many of which have to do with self-improvement. While there may be some overlap, the church at this time invites us to once again hear the call of Jesus. Whether it is “come and see” or “follow me,” we have the opportunity to respond: “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”
Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
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