Come Follow Me

What happens in the silent spaces of a conversation? What happens in that moment between a call from the outside, and the listener’s response? Today’s Gospel reading, precisely in its simplicity, invites us into that mystery of when Christ called his first disciples, Peter and Andrew.

Calling of the Apostles

The Italian painter Duccio captures this moment memorably in his Calling of the Apostles. I keep a copy of this painting in my home and have gazed upon it often, searching out the unspoken words of the scene. At the far left, Christ stands upon the shore, gently extending a hand toward Peter and Andrew who are in the boat. Andrew pulls up a net full of fish, while Peter gazes back at Jesus with an expression of startled reverence. What has long intrigued me most in this painting, though, is the span of empty space between Peter and Jesus, set against a luminous gold background. What is happening in that moment?

We are told that while walking along the sea of Galilee, Jesus first saw the two brothers on their boat. In that word saw we may imagine not simply a glance but a long, intentional gaze. After looking at these two fishermen, perhaps admiring their humble work as only God could delight in the work of man, Jesus chooses them and calls aloud.

Hearing the Voice

Out of the brilliance of sunlight and clear water, a Voice calls to the men, and they turn to see who has called them. They do not know Him, and yet as they encounter both His gaze and His voice, they are struck to the core. The glance of God has penetrated their hearts. We sense there is some inexpressible power in the sheer presence of Christ before them. Immediately, they drop their nets and follow Him.

Why, after so brief an encounter, did these two men leave everything they knew to follow One they did not yet know? What did they hear in His call?

Jesus proposes to make them anew as only God can do. With that touch of humor, we find sprinkled in the Gospels, He tells them he will make them no longer mere fishermen, but “fishers of men.” A new life, the divine adventure, beckons forth to Peter and Andrew. Called out by this One who seems more than simply man, they must decide in that moment whether to stay, or to follow. Indeed, every disciple faces the same decision point in life: Do we ignore the call, or do we cast aside everything we know in order to follow the Lord?

Remember the Call

Many of us have experienced that transformative call of Christ. Though we may have not heard Him audibly as the apostles did, most of us have known a time at which God’s voice called us out of our old life into a new way of living. I certainly remember that day and hour when His presence broke into my world for the first time. I heard a call which was so other than my own that it seemed almost audible. The sense of God’s nearness overwhelmed me in such a distinct way that I knew I must follow Him, as one follows light out of darkness.

As we walk through the life of faith, it is well worth remembering our first encounter with the Lord. Spend some time today reflecting upon the power and the joy of coming to experience His presence for the first time, much as we might reminisce about the first time we met our spouse. While everyone is called, not everyone hears His voice, and not everyone decides to follow. Rejoice, friends, that He has chosen you and called you to follow Him.

[Readings: 1 Sm 1:1-8; Mk 1:14-20]

Radhika Sharda, MD

Radhika Sharda is a practicing physician and a convert to the Catholic faith from a Hindu background. She has written a book of essays on literature, Savour, which may be found on Amazon. She lives in Raleigh, NC, with her two young boys.

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