September 27, 2020
Some 600 years before Christ, God spoke through the Prophet Jeremiah saying:
Behold, I will send many fishermen, saith the Lord, and they shall fish for them; and afterward I will send many hunters, and they shall hunt for them upon every mountain, and upon every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks. For mine eyes are upon all their ways; and their iniquities have not been hidden from mine eyes. (Jeremiah 16:16-17).
The holy fathers explain that this prophesy began to be fulfilled on this very day on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. On this day, He Who created the waters and every creature living therein, became, Himself, a fisherman, snagging in His dragnet the Holy Apostles Simon-Peter and Andrew, and along with them, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Four Apostles were caught. Four professional fishermen suddenly beached their boats, left behind their nets, and walked away from them in order follow Jesus.
What happened? Well, the expert fishermen were out-fished! The young rabbi from Nazareth, Who had never fished a day in His life, asked these seasoned and highly knowledgeable men to go back out fishing, even though they had only recently come back in. He asked them to fish, even though it was totally the wrong time of day to fish. He told them where to lower their nets, even though it went against everything that they knew to be logical, reasonable, or sensible. These were proud men, these fishermen, but they had heard Jesus preach. His words moved them. His words changed them. His words caused them to reflect on their lives, urging them to repent. And what was the result? They obeyed the words of Jesus, even about fishing! St. John Chrysostom says:
“But mark their faith and obedience. For though they were eagerly engaged in the employment of fishing, yet when they heard the command of Jesus, they delayed not, but forsook all and followed Him. Such is the obedience which Christ demands of us; we must not forego it, even though some great necessity urges us.”
They thought Jesus was wrong, no doubt! Did Peter grumble in his heart? Most likely. That’s why when the nets were breaking from the amount of fish taken, and helpers had to called, Peter’s reaction was:
“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”
St. Cyril of Alexandria says, “For this reason Peter was reminded of his former sins, and filled with fear and trembling, realized that he was impure, and unworthy to receive Him Who is pure: and his fear was commendable: for he had been taught by the law to distinguish between what was holy and what was of the world.”
Relying on our own reasoning when it comes to heavenly things is foolish. Joshua ben Sirach says, “Many people have been misled by their own opinions; their wrong ideas have warped their judgment (Sirach 3:24).
St. Makarii of Optina wrote, “Do not trust yourself, do not depend on your own understanding, reject your own will, and the Lord will give you true understanding.” (Russian Letters)
St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain wrote: “Not to rely on oneself is so necessary in our struggle, my beloved brother, that without this, be assured, not only will you fail to gain the desired victory, but you will be unable to resist the smallest attack of the enemy. Engrave this deeply in your mind and heart” (Unseen Warfare).
Being obedient to Christ is the first sign that we are truly His faithful disciples. St Mark the Ascetic wrote, “a faithful servant is he who professes his faith by obedience to Christ, Who gave the commandments.”
So how can we set aside our own opinions and instead follow Christ? He tells us in the Scriptures. 1.) Love God. Love Him with the entirety of your being; more than family, more than friends, more than jobs. 2.) Love everyone, EVERYONE, even the most unlovable. This also includes forgiving everyone as you wish to be forgiven by God! 3.) Have the attitude that everything that you have comes from God and actually belongs to God. 4.) Live righteously, ethically, honorably. 5.) Be merciful and give alms. 6.) Be a peacemaker and try to bring about reconciliation between people. 7.) Go to church. You constitute an irreplaceable part or member of the very Body of Christ. This also means living by and confessing the church’s moral teachings, confessing her dogmas, and following her Sacred Canons. It also means supporting her with your tithes and offerings.
These seven commandments are not exhaustive, but they are bedrock. These are the things that distinguish an Orthodox Christian from just any other person living in the world. This is how we beach our boats. This is how we leave our nets. This is how we follow Jesus and become His faithful disciples. And isn’t that the true goal of our lives, to follow Jesus? It should be. After all, where has the Lord gone that we should follow Him? St. Augustine tells us:
“And to what place must the Lord be followed? Where He went, we know…He has… ascended into heaven. He must be followed there!…And who would be unwilling to follow Him to such an abode? Especially seeing that we suffer such terrible ordeals on earth with fears and pains. Who would be unwilling to follow Christ there, where there is supreme happiness, supreme peace, and perpetual security? It is good to to follow Him there!” (Sermon 46 on the New Testament.
It is, indeed!