Recognizing the power of Jesus, Peter drops to his knees and cries out, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord" (Luke 5:8). What remarkable humility! Saint Peter, upon whom Jesus would build his Church, is first and foremost a humble servant. It is no wonder that the office he has passed on to his successors bestows the title servus servorum Dei, "servant of the servants of God." Indeed, all true Christian piety and devotion to Jesus begins with a sacrifice, no matter how large or small, for shortly after the aforementioned passage we learn that the apostles "left everything and followed him" (Luke 5:11).
How can I go about leaving "everything" in order to follow Jesus? Surely his call is not meant to be answered in precisely the same manner by each and every Christian. Each day opens the way to a journey on which we encounter Christ repeatedly, oftentimes failing to recognize him. He is the man living in the gutter, beaten and crying for help. Will we be a Levite? Will we instead be a Good Samaritan or a hospitable innkeeper?
So too is Jesus the starving Lazarus, begging for mere scraps from our plate while dogs lick his sores. Will we be the greedy and negligent rich man or as loving as Father Abraham? And what will we do for him if we see him along the road, freezing in the icy mud? Will we mock him, or like Saint Martin of Tours cut our own cloak in two in order to share with one in need?
It is a basic tenet of the spiritual life that grace builds on nature, elevates it, and perfects it. As a result, each one of us is challenged in unique ways. Christ comes to us, for as he told his followers: "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide" (John 15:16). Calling to us in this manner, he expects us to drop our own proverbial nets and leave all fleeting concern behind in our pursuit of truth and ultimate meaning.
Saint Paul reminds us that we have "the mind of Christ" (see 1 Corinthians 2:16). This means so much more than a mind that is merely unconcerned with material wealth and temporal power. He means that we are inexorably linked with Mind itself, the Mind through which the fabric of the universe itself is knit and held together at every moment. Christians become one with him from whom all pure thought, virtue, reason, and love emanate. Our Divine Fount seeks to fill us with all wisdom, charity, all mercy and kindness. We are meant to utterly overflow with the abundant life of God!
When understood in this manner, "leaving everything" is not the burden I may have initially imagined it to be. Whether in troubled times or times of relative peace, whether in small commitments or much larger ones, we must all open our arms widely in order to embrace Christ. We must set out upon the journey which he ordained for us before ever a star or world was fashioned.
"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide" - John 15:16