Follow Through

The other day I was at Walmart. You know, Walmart: The King of Customer Service. I was looking for something specific in the pharmacy, and because the Walmart Pharmacy area has aisle after aisle of products, I was not having any success finding it. A pharmacy employee walked by clearly headed Someplace Important (his break?), and I called to him and asked the location of the product. He literally didn’t even slow down, but kept walking and shouted back at me, “It’s on the aisle just after the vitamin aisle,” undoubtedly thinking, “My Cup-O-Noodles isn’t going to cook itself, Lady.”

Okay. I found the correct aisle, and yet it took me a very long time to find what I was looking for. I finally did. Hoo-rah!

imgresBelieve it or not, I thought about this situation when I heard the Gospel reading Sunday from Matthew. In the gospel, Matthew tells us that Jesus was walking along beside the Sea of Galilee and came across, first, Andrew and his brother Peter, who were casting fishing nets, and then, two more brothers, James and John, also fishing with their father Zebedee. As Jesus passed them, he shouted out, “Come and follow me, I’ll make you fishers of men.” And so, they all did.

How much nicer it would have been if the Walmart employee had said to me, “Come and follow me, I will show you where your item is located.” There is, of course, no comparison to a Walmart employee demonstrating simple customer service and Jesus asking strangers to follow him and help change the world. Still, that invitation to follow me is welcome in times of trouble and distress.

I have often wondered, and frankly did as I listened to the story this time, if the men knew of Jesus beforehand, if they had heard his teachings, and that’s why they dropped what they were doing and followed him. Or was there just something so charismatic about Jesus that they followed without question? The problem with scripture readings, of course, is that they are snapshots. There is some context to this whole story that we must fill in ourselves. The priest/homilist pointed out that every story we know from the scripture makes it clear that the apostles weren’t crazy about their career choices. Scripture tells us about the frustration of empty fishing nets; the discomfort of rough seas; Peter, Andrew, John and James sitting around mending their nets, a mundane activity for sure. Matthew was a despised tax collector, and he couldn’t have loved that job. So perhaps they had simply heard about Jesus and thought to themselves, “What could it hurt? We can follow him and see what happens.”

As I listened, I also wondered just what Zebedee thought when his sons up and left him to pull in the nets by himself. He couldn’t have been very happy about his sons walking away. And then he had to go home and tell his wife that James and John weren’t coming home because they followed that crazy preacher. A few chapters later in Matthew’s gospel, he tells us that that James’ and John’s mother asked Jesus if her wonderful sons could be on his right and left when they were all in heaven. I bet she thought that was the least he could do after having taken her sons away from she and Zeb.

Nevertheless, follow Jesus, they did. And they may not have been the most reliable of disciples (betrayal, denial, doubt), but their decision to follow Jesus changed our lives as well as their own. Now it’s my turn to say yes to Jesus when he asks me to follow him every day of my life.

This post linked to the GRAND Social

Agape

Jen called me early Sunday morning, and she was very excited.

“I know you’re getting ready for church, but I just wanted to tell you that you are going to LOVE today’s readings,” she said. She knows me well.

I really did love all three of the readings.

First of all, the weeks following Easter Sunday, I enjoy the stories from the Acts of the Apostles. In fact, I like the stories so much that it makes me wonder why I don’t simply READ the Acts of the Apostles several times a year. It is my most sincere hope that I don’t get struck down by lightening generated by St. Paul, but I mostly enjoy reading about the time before Paul’s conversion. I love reading about the apostles’ enthusiasm right out of the box and St. Peter’s rather bungling ways. But in Sunday’s first reading, Peter is not bungling. He thumbs his nose at the Sanhedrin  when they tell the apostles that they must – they simply MUST – stop preaching about Jesus as they had been instructed. Peter tells them, “We must obey God rather than men.”

No bungling. As clear as a summer morning in the Rocky Mountains.

The second reading was from Revelation, but instead of being confusing, as I find most of the Book of Revelation, the message is clear: Worthy is the Lamb that was slain. And perhaps I like this reading because as the lector reads the words, I hear Handel’s version of Worthy is the Lamb that was slain being sung in my head. Next to the Hallelujah Chorus, that is my favorite Chorus in Handel’s Messiah.

But actually, what grabbed Jen’s attention and to what she wanted me to pay attention was the St. John’s Gospel. It was actually kind of a two part gospel. The first part tells the story of a handful of the apostles going out fishing and having a terrible day. They caught nothing. Suddenly, a man on the shore suggests they cast the net again, which they do. This time, the net is so full of fish that it begins to break. All of a sudden, they realize the stranger was actually Jesus. (Well, actually, in John’s gospel, here’s how he puts it: So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. SO THE DISCIPLE WHOM JESUS LOVED said to Peter, “It is the Lord.”

John refers to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved several times thoughout his gospel, and it always makes me laugh. Biblical scholars probably have theories about this; I, on the other hand, always want to slap him aside the head and tell him to have some humility. It’s the mom in me.

The second part of the gospel tells us that Jesus takes Peter aside (ahem, leaving THE DISCIPLE WHOM JESUS LOVED behind; just sayin’) and asks him three times, “Simon Peter, do you love me?” Three times Peter says yes, getting a bit crabbier each time. I always found it understandable that Peter got annoyed. At first glance, Jesus sounds needy.

Here’s where Jen’s phone call came in. The homilist at her Mass explained why he believes Jesus asked three times. In the Greek language, there are three words for “love.” One refers to intimate love such as that between spouses. The second refers to the love one has for a friend. That word is phileo. The third refers to a deep and profound love, such as the love God has for us. That word is agape. In the Greek interpretation of this gospel, Jesus uses the word agape. When Peter responds to Jesus’ question, he uses the word phileo. Jen’s homilist suggests that Jesus wanted Peter to promise that he loves Jesus with agape love. It is only when Peter feels agape love that he can truly follow Christ.

I think that Jesus asks me every day of my life, Kristine Rae, do you love me? I’m pretty sure my answer is pretty much what Peter said. Of course I love you. But is it phileo or agape?