The Real Meaning of “Follow Me”

Once upon a time, there exists a wonderful writer by the name of Alice Camille. Many of the thoughts for this homily come from this wonderful religious educator.

“Follow Me.” These are the first words that the disciples hear from Jesus. Today, they are the last words they hear from him. And between these times much takes place.

Both times they find themselves at the shore of Galilee. “’Follow Me’ must have sounded like a lark, a young man’s game, an adventure with all sorts of wonderful possible outcomes.” What do the disciples think about when they say yes? “This teacher might become famous…” And we? We’ll become the “first graduates of his school.” “This preacher might wind being a great leader…” And we? We’ll “assume powerful positions in his regime.” “This healer might be a holy personage in God’s plan…” And we? Well, “who doesn’t want to be at the side of the next Moses?” “At the very least, it” beats living a “normal life as a fisherman and a family man…” So, why not do it?

But, “Follow Me” is “twenty chapters, three years and a legend ago.” “Before miracles rocked the senses,” before “deep clashes with authorities,” before those “terrible signs that made lips quiver and legs wobble.” “It was before the supper, the arrest, the trial, the cross.” “Before horrible days and nights spent in hiding. Before the dawn of Easter, whispers of an empty tomb, and the searing ache of hope.”

“Follow Me” sounds different now. It isn’t “a game, a mere adventure.” It is “for keeps.” “’Follow Me’ has a very different ring to it, now that they’d seen Jesus hauled away, saw him beaten and abused, saw the lifeless body with the gaping wounds. Once you’ve stood at the tomb, walking in the footsteps of Jesus doesn’t sound like a stroll along a sandy beach.”

Three times Jesus “asks Peter for his love.” Notice that it is morning and not night like when Peter sat at a charcoal fire. To make up for that horrible night, Jesus enters into Peter’s chaos. Three questions of love result in three specific deeds: “leadership, service and care.” Jesus asks “for the absolute surrender Peter thought he was giving the first time- before he read the fine print on the contract. Now when Peter answers, his response will be more meaningful.”

What is the lesson for us today? Hmm, well, when we made our vows of marriage, when we made our vows of monastic life, what were thinking when we said yes? And what did we think when we renewed our vows of 25, 50, 55, 60, 70, or 75 years? How many times have we gone back to read the fine print on that contract of marriage and monastic life? After so much time, “’forever’ is better perceived, and ‘together’ is more clearly defined.”

“Follow Me” Jesus says. Even if we are older and in our final stages of life, we can still answer the call of Christ.         Yes, we might struggle in the night like Peter. We may return at times to what we think we do best, like Peter. But keep a look out for someone whom God will send to be a mystic for us, like John. He tells Peter, “It is the Lord.” And like the seven at the shore of Galilee, Jesus will feed us with the best of food.

The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.

Third Sunday of Easter Cycle C

Duke Divinity School Boat

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