Jesus went out and saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him. (Luke 5:27-28)
As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-22)
The next day he decided to go to Galilee, and he found Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” (John 1:43)
If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)
“Follow me.” These two words changed everything for Levi, for Simon and Andrew, for James and John, for Philip, for many unnamed disciples—and for us. Jesus is not pleading or begging. He is inviting, earnestly and lovingly. Isn’t it amazing that Jesus Christ, the all-holy Son of God, would give you and I, as Catholic men, the same choice as well? Follow him, who is the way, the truth, and the life. Follow him, who is the light in the darkness, the spring of water that never fails, the One who promises to guide you always.
Let’s look more closely at what these two simple words, “Follow me,” mean for you and me.
Follow me. Not because you’re particularly good or talented or holy. According to Jewish law, Levi was “impure” because of his association with Gentiles. He was also probably dishonest and greedy. Peter was impulsive, hotheaded, and stubborn. James and John wanted places of honor. All of the disciples had issues, but Jesus called them just the same—just as he is calling you.
Follow me. For those who respond, the glory of those two words is summed up in Peter’s first letter: “Once you were no people, and you had not received mercy. But now you are God’s people, and you have received mercy. Once you were in darkness, and now you are in God’s wonderful light. You are chosen, royal, holy, a people belonging to God himself” (1 Peter 2:9-10). That is who you are. That is how your heavenly Father sees you.
Follow me. It’s true, you may not start out as an ideal disciple, but as you follow, your heart will begin to change. What you are now isn’t an obstacle to what you can become— not to the Lord. He has had a vision for your life from the moment you were conceived. And that vision is one of blessing, not of curse. It’s a vision of fullness, not emptiness. It’s a vision in which every part of your personality—all of your talents, your character traits, and even your unique quirks—is filled with his life and is used to build his kingdom.
Of course, Jesus won’t force us to follow him; he simply calls us and it is up to us to make the right choice. But what is this choice? The choice is to give our lives to Jesus, and follow him, or to try to live life on our own. It’s a choice between actively believing in Jesus or passively accepting a kind of “default” life in which we just go along with the rest of the world.
But if we want to choose to follow Jesus over the default, it would be really helpful to understand who this Jesus is. That’s why, throughout this Lenten season, the Scripture readings are revealing Jesus to us and the call he is giving us They are showing us that he is not just a good man whose example we should follow; he is the holy Son of God who became man so we, as Catholic men, could become beloved sons of God. They also show us that he is not a God who tests our faith by making us suffer; he is the Lamb of God who laid down his life so that we could be transformed into his very image and likeness!
Seeing Jesus for who he is will also show us the difference between walking with the Lord and going it alone. If during Lent, we choose to follow Jesus every day, our lives will change—and dramatically. We won’t just be living as “mere mortals” anymore. We will find ourselves filled with the grace and power of Almighty God! We will experience what it means to be a new creation. We will be able to love the unlovable, to forgive the unforgivable, and to overcome the insurmountable.
We all know that following Jesus has its ups and downs. It may be costly. It may require denying ourselves and taking up our cross (Luke 9:23). But this does not mean we are to live a life of continual suffering by passively accepting whatever trials come our way? Not at all! There may be challenges and difficulties along the way. But no matter what challenges we may face, we can always face them knowing that we belong to Jesus, and that he will never abandon us. For not only are we following Jesus; he is leading us. Thus, we can be confident that as we choose to follow Jesus each and every day, our lives will be marked by confidence and hope. “Follow me.” (Luke 5:27)
“Lord, thank you for inviting me to follow you. Yes, Jesus! I will follow you. I want to walk in your light every day of my life. I trust that you will bring to fulfillment all of your great and gracious plans for my life.”
Many thanks to The Word Among Us (www.wau.org) for allowing me to adapt meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
1. Take some time to meditate and reflect on the Scriptures at the beginning of the article. What do you think God is trying to reveal to you through them?
2. When Jesus called his disciples to follow him, they left “everything behind” to follow him. What are the obstacles in your life that can keep you from leaving everything behind to follow Jesus?
3. The article ascribes various meanings to Jesus’ words: “Follow me.” What do these words mean to you?
4. The article describes the costs and the advantages and disadvantages of following Jesus. How would you describe them?
5. The article goes on to say that “throughout this Lenten season, the Scripture readings are revealing Jesus to us and the call he is giving us.” Why do you think this is an important element of the Scriptures that are chosen for Lent? What are some ways you can use these Scriptures during Lent to come to know Jesus in a deeper way?
6. The article ends with these encouraging words: “But no matter what challenges we may face, we can always face them knowing that we belong to Jesus, and that he will never abandon us. For not only are we following Jesus; he is leading us. Thus, we can be confident that as we choose to follow Jesus each and every day, our lives will be marked by confidence and hope.” What gives you “confidence and hope” in following Jesus?
7. Take some time now to pray for the grace to “leave everything behind” to follow Jesus during your Lenten journey. Use the prayer at the end of the article as the starting point.