“Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men”

This is a small, yet powerful phrase which we heard today by our Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospel. Christianity, my dearly beloved, is real, it is alive, and it is a way of life. It is the continuation of the Old Covenant man shared with God since man was created. Orthodox Christianity, is alive because it is the Faith which gives us wisdom and illumination, but more importantly salvation. It is not a religion, because what many people don’t know is that, religion is supposedly a vessel or a belief system with which people try to discover God. Unlike religions, Christianity never even attempts to discover God, because God can never be discovered; in fact man can’t even look into the sun for a second without hurting his eyes, and the sun is a mere creation of God. If it was so, that God could ever be discovered or even become conceivable to the human mind, then how mighty a God would He really be. Can a clay pot ever know who its creator was? Impossible and irrational to even think of such a suggestion isn’t it! From the time God created man, it was God Who revealed Himself to man, as much as is possible of course, and in the scriptures themselves we know of many examples.

In today’s Gospel passage, we heard a good example of God revealing Himself to man. We heard the following words: “And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And He saith unto them, Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Christ, Who is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Son and Word of God, became man, therefore making it possible for both men and angels to see God. Nevertheless in the passage we just heard that it was Jesus Who saw the two brothers. So what is it that drew Christ to the two brothers Simon and Andrew? What did the Lord see in them? They were just poor, uneducated fishermen, as were the other two brothers mentioned in today’s Gospel, who followed Jesus in the same manner; James and John, the sons of Zebedee. My dear Christians, Christ Who knows all things, also sees our intentions as well as our hearts and minds. What Christ could see in those simple fishermen was faith, reverence, good intent, righteousness and cleanliness of heart. He saw a pilot flame within them, which was waiting to be ignited. Their souls were awake in watchfulness, because they desired the right things in their hearts. When Christ said to them: “Follow Me”, they very well could have said what most people would have said: “well, Who art Thou that we must follow”? Instead, that pilot flame became a fire, because their conscience was well awake, they recognised God’s calling. This is how we too must react, when we feel Christ in our midst. He calls upon people to follow Him even today, through His Holy Church of course, which is none other than the Body of Christ. All those who care about their salvation, and those who are righteous and faithful, will believe in Christ, when He calls upon them.

In the Old Testament, it was Abraham’s faith, which led the true God to him, because till then, he was a pagan. Today, when one desires truth and righteousness, God will invite them into the Ark of Salvation, the Church, those who believe, will enter the ark, and those who don’t believe, will remain out just like in the time of Noah.

Christ didn’t call upon brutal or fearsome warriors to become His followers, instead, He chose those simple fishermen, who at the time would have been considered as insignificant people in the vast Roman Empire. All the empires have always based their success on military strength, the stronger, larger and more sophisticated the empire’s army was, the larger the empire became geographically. In Christianity, however, we have an unprecedented situation. Without material means, without money, without murderous weapons, with only the weapon of faith in Christ, the small group of fishermen began their march as true soldiers of Christ. Certainly, the mission they were trying to accomplish surpassed human capabilities, and for this reason they were often labelled by people as insane, however, behind their human weakness, behind their insignificance, lay the power and wisdom of God. These fishermen, the Holy Apostles were armed with enormous spiritual power on the day of Pentecost; they were illumined with the Grace of the Holy Spirit, where they were transformed from fishermen to fishers of men, just as Christ said to them in Galilee, where He initially asked them to follow Him. Unlike their fishing nets, Christ’s disciple’s new nets were not made of rope or any other material, but they were made from the word of God. Their “catch”; in other words; the souls which they captured spiritually through their preaching, were taken out of the sea of sin, and so the previous children of darkness would die, only to be born as children of light through Holy Baptism, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

I often ask myself, but I also want to raise this question for all of you; If we had been those first disciples, would we have dropped everything to follow Christ as they did, or would we have ignored His calling? What would we have done? Or, what if Christ was to return now, to visit us in our everyday lives; would we be ready in our hearts to accept Him? Or would our hearts be too taken by the material world? Naturally, we would like to think that we would gladly leave everything and everyone to follow Him; but, it is one thing thinking, and another thing doing this in practice. You see, following Christ would mean abandoning sin and our passions, because as Jesus said, a servant cannot serve two masters, in this case; both Christ and Satan; he must choose one or the other.

In today’s apostolic reading we heard the following verses: “Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile.” These verses can apply to people of every generation, it did not just apply for the Jews and gentiles then, because a man who is not a Christian, can also be regarded a gentile, just as the Christians are the new Jews, not according to ethnicity of course, but according to God. When people learn to live in righteousness and piety, striving with zeal to keep the implanted law which all people are born with, then you can be certain that their calling will come, and like Saint Paul said; glory, honour and peace shall be unto them. On the other hand, those who live in sin and satisfy their passions, not only will they not draw Christ toward them, but according to St Paul tribulation and anguish will be upon them. If we so choose Christ above all things in our life, by not allowing our love for relatives and material things exceed our love and dedication to God, then we will become worthy of God, like we heard in last Sunday’s Gospel, however sadly, it is not the case with people today. The majority of mankind just goes with the flow of the world. We think that by giving in to the world’s demands and trends, we are just doing what is normal. It is not at all to say of course, that what people consider today as being normal is in fact normal.

Today the world is too demanding, it is full deceit, temptation and sin. Normal people who are God fearing and pious are seen with pity, they are despised and mocked, however, the abnormal and strange people are well respected and idolised, and are considered to be high in society. To not use drugs, abuse alcohol, commit fornication and adultery, accept sodomy, attend parties, sing and dance to the latest music is regarded by society as antisocial behaviour, therefore those who live very natural and medium paced lives who care for their salvation, are labelled as fanatics, weird, crazy, uneducated, boring and they just don’t fit in. Such was the way of thinking of humanity before the great flood at the time of Noah as Christ describes in the Gospel: “And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. “

We are all children of the heavenly Father. When we allow His Holy Will to be done in our lives, and do what is good, oh what joy, what peace and happiness we experience in the depths of our hearts! On the other hand, when we go against His Will and live a sinful life, then our hearts do not experience peace. We become sad and depressed, not being able to explain the reason for it. We have no one else to blame for the sins we commit. Happiness leaves us because of how much we have sinned, without even having regretted those things. Christians are expected to live according to God’s Law, just as civilians are expected to live according to civil law. When a law is broken are there not consequences that follow for the guilty? And rightly so, otherwise there would be complete anarchy and disorder; the same applies to God’s Law, if the Law is not kept by the Christians themselves who are of the Law, then there will be consequences for them. People don’t realize that, the reason why we are free, is because we uphold the laws.

By keeping God’s Law, we become free from sin, and free from the captivity of our passions, because a person with passions, is a person who has no self-control or will power.

Another verse which we heard Saint Paul say to the Romans today is: “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” In other words, the ones who will be justified before God on Judgment Day are the ones who actually kept and practiced the Law, not the ones who only heard the Law without practicing it; they will be deemed unworthy of God on Judgment Day. In saying that, I would like to remind you all that the Holy Orthodox Church is in a period of fasting, all the more reason for us now to repent for our sins and open our hearts and minds to God, it is a period where Christians, are supposed to be at their strongest, spiritually speaking of course, because fasting and prayer give birth to other virtues.

Let us all, seek our salvation my dear faithful, let us humbly ask God, to give us strength, wisdom, illumination, let us seek repentance remembering the words of the Holy Prophet and King David: “Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know mine iniquity: and my sin is ever before me.” “Turn Thy face away from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence: and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.”

Through the Prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy and save us. Amem.

Hieromonk Sozómenos
Saints Constantine & Helen Parish and
Holy Chapel of Saint Nektarios

Birmingham, UK. - 2012 a.d.

Back to: Contemporary Articles