In Matthew 4: 18-22, we hear of how for Simon Peter, the humble fisherman from Galilee, this was the first day of the rest of his life. From this day on life became meaningful, purposeful, and fulfilling. On this day there was a revolution in his life.
This revolution had two ingredients: First, Christ had to knock Simon Peter out of his comfort zone. Second, Peter had to step into Christ’s comfort zone.
Jesus does his part masterfully. Jesus tells Simon Peter to “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Now, Peter knew that you don’t catch fish in broad daylight, especially after a night without any catch at all. But Jesus just looks right at him, inviting him, challenging him: he is pushing Peter out of his comfort zone, into the deep water of the lake, and into the deep spiritual water of faith.
That’s the first ingredient in the revolution. Now comes the second ingredient. Peter actually obeys. He doesn’t obey because he understands. He doesn’t obey because he can figure it out. No. He obeys only for one reason: because Christ is the one issuing the command: “Master… at your command I will lower the nets.” Peter lets Jesus push him out of his own comfort zone. That’s the formula for inner Christian revolution, the revolution that brings meaning to life.
It’s one thing to profess a belief in Jesus Christ – but the true question is how much do we put that faith into practice? Often we are content to have Jesus sit in our boat, to hear his teaching and feel the comfort of his presence. But when he asks something of us, when he pushes us out of our comfort zone, we resist. That’s why we get stuck in our Christian lives: stuck on this side of holiness, stuck with a mediocre happiness, stuck with empty nets.
The deepest and most serious drama in the life of every one of us is the decision we make on whether to say “Yes” or “No” to God. At a certain level we do say “Yes,” most of us. But then the question is, what difference does it make? You’ve got to get up tomorrow morning and it is another day. How will you face the day and how will you relate to people and what kind of life are you going to live in the midst of tomorrow’s events? Do you really believe that you can come into Church on Sunday, profess to be in union with Christ, then on Monday become a racist, or not care that the marginalized in our society are growing, or even elect people to govern us whose values do not follow those of our faith? When you do that, there is only one person that doesn’t see the pretense. It’s the one staring back at you in the mirror.
But, the question remains: What kind of life style do we aim to develop in the midst of this world that seems to have gone amok? What good does it do to talk about being created for God if it doesn’t make a difference at breakfast tomorrow morning? You may have many demands and personal issues on your mind at the moment. But none of them is as important as the need to look at the specific, relevant direction that comes to us from Jesus Christ, and to reflect on it, seriously.
I want to suggest some specific examples of how to do this. One is very relevant and very down-to-earth. It also turns people off. I’m talking about the absolute need of prayer and meditation. Regularly, Jesus responded in this way to the need for spiritual refreshment, for focusing on God, for putting His life into perspective, for reviewing priorities and values. We all know this. But, we have a problem because we don’t do it. I think we would all be shocked at how few people set aside even minimal time for prayer and meditation. Yet, it is absolutely necessary for developing a style of life that is open toward God and open toward God’s creation, and yet, we don’t pray, we don’t meditate, we don’t seriously reflect on what’s right and what’s wrong with our values and our way of looking at life. But when a serious crisis comes, then we try to pray and we discover, sadly, that there’s nothing there. We wonder where did God go? Until we are willing to work at this seriously, we haven’t taken the necessary first step toward the God-centered/other-centered Christian life style.
The second step is to realize that Christ calls people together in groups. We have not been created to go it alone. We find life in relationship with others. That is why God has given us this Community of Love we call the Church. It is through our participation in the life of the Community of Faith that we learn, at the deepest levels of our being, how to grow and how to develop the life style that moves us toward God. This is difficult to talk about because it’s open season on the Church these days, and we all know it. We’re being told that the Church is obsolete, irrelevant, meaningless.
We’re also told that sermons on prayer and meditation are out of date, out of style. This reminds us of the young preacher in Scotland who looked down at the front row and saw a man who’d brought his dog. (In Scotland, this is not uncommon, I understand. They bring their shepherd dogs to Church because when they worship they like to be near that which they love.) According to this story, however, the preacher looked down and said, “You’ll have to get that dog out of here. I can’t preach to a dog.” Obediently, the man took the dog out and then returned to his seat. After the service, some members of the congregation went to the minister and said, “You’ve made a serious mistake. The man with the dog is a very influential member of this Church and you’ve upset him very much.” Hearing this, the minister went to the man and began to apologize. “Oh, that’s alright,” the man answered, “I wouldn’t have had my dog listen to that sermon for anything.” Unfortunately, that’s the attitude of many people these days, not only toward the sermons being preached but also toward everything else going on in the Church, especially the changes. There always is the need to do better, in the Church and everywhere else. And we must be realistic about it.
Christian realism means being open to the possibilities of whatever it is that God is doing in our midst. And being open implies the need for serious reflection, serious meditation, serious prayer. Do this in imitation of Christ and you will discover that it will lead you to greater involvement in the Community of Faith, not less. You will discover that the Church is the context through which we move toward God Himself. It is in this life of sharing and worshipping and studying and listening that our sense of mission and purpose grows and develops. Of course, this means more than just “coming to Church.” We must look at this second stage of our Christian development-our involvement in community-and ask ourselves whether we are involved in a way that really makes a difference in our life style. Is our Church activity such that it makes us increasingly God-centered, increasingly open to His will for us to become men and women for others?
Down deep inside all of us, we know that Jesus Christ has the answer to our life.” In the end, that is really what it comes down to for us all.. The question is, “Do we want it?” Reflect on that and see what your answer is.