Jesus said, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. . . He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him. ~ Mt 4:19-20, 22
The first time I heard the Muslim call to prayer was three decades ago, on a hot, dusty afternoon in Cairo, where I was traveling with my college roommate. To my ear, the chant of the muezzin was strikingly atonal, hauntingly sinuous and insistent. It was not a sound that could be easily ignored by those who participated in the formal prayer rituals of that faith.
For a Christian believer, the call of Christ may be experienced as equally insistent. It will come, perhaps, when we are busy with the mundane tasks of the day—cooking a meal, folding laundry, waiting in a carpool line, walking across campus, whatever the twenty-first century equivalent is for us of Simon and Andrew fishing or James and John repairing their nets. How are we to respond to this call? Not reluctantly, not tentatively, not the next day, but immediately: Matthew drives the point home by repeating the adverb eutheos, from the Greek adjective that signifies being in a straight or direct line.
Jesus invites us to follow him as disciples both in the activities of our lives—seeing his face in the faces of all we encounter—and in our prayer. It is a re-orientation of our hearts and minds in the light of the love and mercy of God. Unlike a Google calendar invitation, there is no “Maybe” here. The call of Jesus carries with it a sense of urgency, an insistence not unlike the insistence of the call to prayer I heard so long ago in Cairo. The voice says, “RSVP—now.”
O God who calls us in the midst of life, give me the faith to respond to your invitation to follow you willingly, cheerfully, and promptly. Amen.
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Elizabeth Kirkland Cahill is an author, lecturer and Biblical scholar. She is the co-author, with Joseph Papp, of Shakespeare Alive! (Bantam Books), and is a contributor to Commonweal and America.