“Follow the leader” — “follow the directions” – “follow your dream.” How many times have we heard these and other such expressions about following and have even carried them out in our daily lives? The word “follow” has many definitions that speak to our lives: to go, to come after, to imitate, to go in the same direction, to travel behind, to conform to are just some of those meanings.
Let’s start this topic of ”following” with the concept of an invitation. We receive many different invitations such as birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, and the list goes on. How we respond to them can depend on the type of invitation or who the people are that are extending the invitation. Invitations mean a great deal in our society. They often determine if we are included in or can claim belonging to a certain group; they make us feel special.
It is the same thing when it comes to God. We have received an invitation from God — a special invitation to follow God at the moment of our Baptism. It was by far the most important invitation we could have ever received. But it wasn’t a one-time invitation; the Lord continues to extend his invitation to us. It is our responsibility to choose to renew our response to that invitation every day. But, often we do not always react very excitedly about this and we are more content to walk down the path of apathy. We find things to do that we consider more important at the present moment. We live in a fast-paced world and so often we claim to be too busy. We’re off tending to family or work issues or just enjoying other things in life. It’s a struggle to fit God into our daily agenda. In Scripture Jesus cites several examples of those who resisted and walked away. There was the man who wanted to first attend to his father and Jesus tells him “Now is the time I am calling you!” There was another person who just wanted to go back and say farewell to his family. Jesus reminded him that there is no looking back when called to follow. These examples show us people who were filled with doubt and hesitation and responded with “Yes, Lord, but not now!” Are we any different than these? But then, contrary to these two, recall one familiar example of Jesus walking by the Sea of Galilee when he saw Simon and Andrew casting their fishing nets into the sea. “Follow me and I will make you fishers of people.” They left their nets and followed. No hint of stopping to count the cost or talking over the situation with each other. Fortunately there are times when we, too, do choose to follow, We might say we are all these characters sometime in our lives.
When we are called as disciples to follow Jesus, we are faced with the same decisions of many who have gone before us. We can look upon following Christ when it is convenient or a nice idea or a comfort in difficult times or we can make following Christ the only thing that makes any sense in our lives. Followers always have time for God because their lives center in his. Following Christ isn’t something that can be done halfheartedly or on the side. It is not a label we can display when useful. It must be central to everything we do and are. Jesus always comes asking only that we follow him – not merely “accept him,” “believe in him,” or “worship him” but actually “follow him.” And we either follow or we do not!! Reflect for a minute on Jesus himself calling us as he did the Samaritan woman at the well. How overwhelmed we would be to know we were personally called by the Son of God to follow him. We would forget all about our “water jar” and, like the woman, leave it and respond immediately.
Father Richard Rohr wrote: “Jesus clearly taught the twelve disciples about accepting the necessity of suffering, humility, servant leadership and nonviolence. But they resisted him every time and so he finally had to make the journey himself and tell them, ‘Follow me!’ But Christians have preferred to hear something Jesus never said, ‘Worship me.’ Worship of Jesus is rather harmless and risk-free. Following Jesus changes everything!”
Following Jesus involves following his example. In the Upper Room Jesus said, after washing the feet of the disciples, “You should also do as I have done to you.” Dillard, professor at the University of South California, said: “To follow is to decide to be with another, to become capable of doing what that person does or become what that person is.” He asks: “What do you do if you want to live life well? Where do you go if you want to live in the way that corresponds to the way God created humans to live? You seek examples of a life that has been lived in that way.” Therefore, it seems obvious that doing what Jesus did means becoming more and more like Jesus, to think as he thought, feel as he felt, act as he acted, desire what he desired, walk the same path that he walked. That is our call — to “follow the leader!”
Sister Lauretta Leipzig