Fr. Ron Bagley, CJM
Have you ever noticed that Jesus always presented people with a choice and left them free to determine how they would respond? He never obliged people to become his disciples. He never forced people to believe or to join his movement. He simply invited. Some accepted the invitation to “come and see.” Others walked away. Some stayed for a while but left when the life he offered seemed too difficult. But Jesus always respected peoples’ freedom.
Each of us has received an invitation to a life in Christ and it is up to us to decide if and when and how we will respond to that invitation. The gospel for this Sunday illustrates how Jesus calls disciples. His approach is invitational. Two people heard John the Baptist announce to the crowd that Jesus is the Lamb of God. They approach Jesus and inquire “where do you stay?” He extends an invitation for them to “come and see.” They accept the invitation and follow him.
We know of another place in the gospels when Jesus invites a rich young man to come and follow him, but the man has reasons for not accepting the invitation. “He went home sad,” but Jesus lets him go. Becoming a disciple is always a free response. Likewise, there are many ways that people express their response to the invitation. And the timing is different for each person. Jesus does impose deadlines or have a one-size-fits-all way of responding to his invitation. The only thing that he asks is that the response is free and unconditional.
We are told in today’s gospel passage that one of these new disciples was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. (You probably noticed that this is a different version of the call of Peter and Andrew. The fourth gospel follows a different tradition from that of the synoptics.) After accepting the invitation of Jesus, Andrew goes off to find Simon Peter. Andrew brings him to Jesus so that Peter can personally hear the invitation of Jesus. Then Jesus calls him Cephas (rock). He has plans for Peter but he must accept the call.
In the next paragraph of the fourth gospel (if we read beyond today’s passage), we hear that the next person whom Jesus finds is Philip. He invites him to follow. Philip goes off tells Nathaniel that he has “found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” Nathanael is skeptical about Jesus’ origins: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip uses the same words as Jesus: “Come and see.”
So this is how it goes with Jesus: he invites people to become his disciples. And then disciples bring other people to Jesus so that they too can hear the invitation from the Lord. The gospel teaches us that we each need to accept the Lord’s invitation to discipleship. Our response needs to be freely given. But, in addition, the gospel tells us that being a disciple will usually incite us to bring others to Jesus. There are many ways that we can say to a person: “Come and see.”
There is an old expression that says: “Bring your friend to Jesus and he will do the rest.” This is the simplest form of evangelization. We do not need to be eloquent or theologically precise or exceptionally holy. Just introduce your friend to the Jesus you have come to know. He will invite him or her to come and see.