Longing for someone to follow
A Reflection for Tuesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
“As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Then they left their nets and followed him.” (Mk 1:16-18)
Rick Curry was a Jesuit brother and professional actor who, because of a congenital defect, had only one complete arm. In a story he often retold, he once went on an audition for a mouthwash commercial where the receptionist took one look at him and said, “Is this a joke? Who put you up to this?”
Rick’s response was starting the National Theatre Workshop of the Handicapped. He also brought his theater skills to work with war veterans, founded a bakery and wrote cookbooks, among other Jesuit ministries. Brother Curry was quick with a one-liner, ebullient, funny; his presence filled a room. In 2006 he appeared on the TV show “Monk” as a psychologist who bothered the obsessive-compulsive Monk because Rick’s character, with his one arm, was not “symmetrical.”
I met Rick as a novice scholastic and was so inspired by him I thought I might change grades and become a brother. (After an hour or so musing on this, I dismissed the idea as something that would make me happy and therefore was probably wrong.)
Toward the end of his life, feeling called to administer the sacraments, Rick changed grades himself and became a priest.
Father Curry died in 2015 of heart failure at the age of 72.
We strain our eyes for something or someone whose very presence, bearing, energy draws us inescapably into an undertaking bigger than ourselves.
In the days when he was still a brother, Rick came to my hometown of Omaha to give a talk at a Jesuit fundraiser. After hearing this charismatic and moving speaker talk about his ministries with the disabled, an area dentist said that if he could, he would leave his entire life behind and go work with Brother Curry.
“Jesus said to them, ‘Come after me and I will make you fishers of men.’ Then they left their nets and followed him.”
We long for someone whom we can follow, to whom we can give everything. We strain our eyes for something or someone whose very presence, bearing, energy draws us inescapably into an undertaking bigger than ourselves.
So few the joyful, inspiring artist-brothers we would leave everything for. So rare the sons of God we would immediately up and follow. Only one actually.
Is Christ still showing up today, some decent facsimile, at least? Is he appearing in whatever startling form he comes, bearing defects or not; calling us to drop our usual nets of fear, doubt, suspicion and follow him; simply be with him? Is he?