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Jesus knows Christian friendship helps us become saints together — so pursue Christian friendship…

Jesus knows Christian friendship helps us become saints together — so pursue Christian friendship…

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Victor Feltes

Imagine four teenagers growing up in the same small town. They’re seniors in high school and play on the same varsity football team together. What are the odds of all of them going on to play and eventually being inducted into the Hall of Fame? The odds are tiny. Not many players are drafted by the NFL and fewer still get their names enshrined at Canton, Ohio. This scenario would require an incredible concentration of athletic talent emerging in the same place at the same time.

In today’s gospel, as Jesus passes by the Sea of Galilee, he sees two brothers, Simon and Andrew, casting their fishing nets into the sea. When Jesus says, “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men,” they abandon their nets to follow him. Walking along a little farther, Jesus sees James and John, the sons of Zebedee, mending their nets in a boat. Jesus calls them too and they leave to follow him. What were the odds of these four, young, uneducated men, living and laboring together in the same small seaside town, going on to become some of the Church’s greatest saints?

Was this all arranged through divine providence? Had God been gently guiding the course of history to prepare for the day of their calling by Christ? Or, can Jesus do great works with anyone who answers his call? Yes and yes. “God works all things for the good of those who love him,” preparing, and calling, and making them fruitful when they follow him. Look at the Prophet Jonah. Just one day’s preaching in an enormous city accomplished the people of Nineveh’s repentance, delivering them from destruction. Had God been preparing the Ninevites’ minds and hearts for that day, or did God graciously empower Jonah’s words? Yes. God prepares to do great things with us in our free cooperation with him.

There is another interesting reflection found in the calling of Simon, Andrew, James and John. These four fishermen already knew each other. They were coworkers in business together, two pairs of biological brothers, and familiar friends. These future-apostles began as Jesus’ disciples already sharing close relationships with one another. Not all twelve apostles knew each other before they followed Jesus, but they came to know each other very well. And when Jesus would send them out on missions he did not send them out alone, he sent them two by two. Jesus understands that such community and friendship is important for Christians to support each other and grow together.

Consider again the Prophet Jonah. At first, he fled alone from doing God’s will. And then, from the dark depths, he feared to die alone. Reluctantly, he came alone to preach at Nineveh, yet he still refused to forgive and pray and hope for the Ninevites’ salvation. After Jonah’s dreams were dashed (that is, when the Ninevites were not destroyed) he became angry and wished to die alone. Imagine if Jonah had had a Christian friend accompanying and supporting him. Someone to caution him to do God’s will. Someone to comfort him as he faces death. Someone to challenge him to forgive his enemies. Someone to encourage him to see the goodness in his own life and in other people. Jonah could have greatly benefited from having a companion like that.

Jesus knows Christian friendship and fellowship helps us become saints together. So cultivate such community. If you lack it, pray for it and actively pursue it. Reach out to people, have phone or video chats, invite them out to lunch, or have them over for coffee. Find fellowship in “That Man Is You,” or with our Knights of Columbus, or in our parish ladies’ group. Stick around after Masses to chat with people in our vestibule. If you see someone new at church, please make them feel welcome. Christ calls every one of us and plans to make us fruitful as we cooperate with him, but it is unlikely Jesus is asking you to follow him all by yourself. He calls us to follow him together.

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