Last week we heard about people beginning to follow Jesus. We learned that a disciple is a person who follows someone. In the gospel for this Sunday, again we hear about disciples; this time, Jesus calls them to follow him.
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen.
These two brothers fish together. Jesus sees them standing on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, throwing a big net into the sea, hoping to catch fish. That is their job. But as soon as Jesus says,
what do they do?
immediately they left their nets and followed him.
"Immediately" means they follow him right away. They do not even put their nets away. They just follow Jesus. We have to wonder why.
As Jesus went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets.
As Jesus keeps walking along the shore, with Simon and Andrew following him, he sees two more brothers. These brothers are James and John. Their father's name is Zebedee. ("Zebedee" is a fun name to say 😊) James and John and their father Zebedee sit in their boat, fixing their nets.
Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
These brothers follow, too. Do we hear their father, Zebedee, say anything? No. He just lets them go. That seems a little odd. If we sat in a boat with our mother or father and someone called us to follow, would our mum and dad let us go? We know that we are not supposed to follow strangers.
If James and John can leave their father to follow Jesus, he must not be a stranger. And yet, it does not seem like they have met him before. It is a puzzle. Somehow, James and John, and their father Zebedee, know that it is good to follow Jesus. We wonder how they know.
Perhaps the parable of the Good Shepherd can help us understand. Jesus says,
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me (John 10:14)
Jesus tells us that he is the Good Shepherd. We may not know who his sheep are, but he tells us something about them. Jesus says,
He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. (John 10:3b-4)
Jesus tells us why the sheep follow when he calls them. They know his voice! The voice of the Good Shepherd... We wonder what that sounds like.
Jesus also says this about the sheep of the Good Shepherd:
They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.
Aha! Just like us, those sheep will not follow a stranger. They only follow the voice of the Good Shepherd. We have to wonder if James and John, and their father Zebedee, also know the voice of the Good Shepherd. They know that it is good to follow the voice of Jesus.
We can think about the voice of the Good Shepherd. It must have a very good sound. His sheep want to follow. James and John, Peter and Andrew want to follow, too. We wonder if anyone else wants to follow him.
Can we hear the voice of the Good Shepherd? We do not see Jesus walking along the shores of seas. We do not see him walking along our streets. But still, we wonder...
Pope Francis has made this Sunday, the Sunday of the Word of God. It is a day when we pay extra-special attention to the Bible. We listen to the Word of God all the time, but this Sunday we listen ever so much more carefully when the Word is read to us. When we listen so carefully, perhaps we can hear Jesus' voice. Maybe not with our ears, but deep down in our hearts.