COME AND SEE The Cost, The Commitment, The Response
COME AND SEE
The Cost, The Commitment, The Response
Fr Luke A Veronis
When you want someone to really understand something, how can you convince them? How can you show them what you mean? What’s more effective than simply telling them with words? In today’s Gospel story, we see Philip simply say to Nathanael, “Come and See!”
Come and see who Christ is. Come and see how to follow Him! Come and see what it means to become His disciple! Come and see what it how to commit your entire life living under the reign of God. Come and See!
For all of us who call ourselves Christians, this Gospel story has an invitation to us as well. We all to COME to Jesus and SEE Christ’s way of life. Yet to “come and see” is an invitation which involves a lifelong transformative commitment. Within this invitation, there are three things to consider: the COST, the COMMITMENT, and the RESPONSE.
In today’s gospel story, we hear Philip invite Nathaniel to follow Christ. We know these apostles accepted the invitation, and faithfully followed Him even to their deaths. Yet, throughout the Gospels, we can read where other potential followers receive the same invitation to come and see, yet don’t follow through. For example, we hear of a man who tells Jesus that he wants to follow Him wherever he goes. Jesus responds to the inquirer by saying, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air a nest, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head." Christ warns this potential follower of the cost involved. To be a true disciple isn't easy. As a Christian, no where on earth is your home anymore because you become a citizen of heaven. Your ultimate identity is not longer your national identity or your ethnic identity. You are a citizen of heaven!
Next, Jesus asks another man to follow him but he hesitates by saying, "I will follow you, but first let me bury my father." This man implies he wants to follow Jesus but first he needs to wait until all his family obligations are fulfilled. He can’t follow Jesus right now because other responsibilities hold his attention. To which Christ responds, "Let the dead bury the dead." This harsh answer presents an important reality for a follower of Christ. Jesus honestly tells the man that he must decide where his ultimate commitment lies - with his family and friends, or with Christ and the Kingdom of God. Let the spiritually dead bury the physically dead He says. The kingdom of God needs workers who put Christ before all else, even before family! Jesus wants no followers who place Him second in their lives.
Finally, a man tells Jesus, I will follow you, but first I must say goodbye to my house. Again we hear someone say, "I will follow you BUT..." Our Lord responds, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God." In other words, "I want a response now. No BUTS allowed. If you keep looking back to other things, you will never become a true follower of mine."
These stories reflect the COST, the COMMITMENT, and the FIRM RESPONSE needed to follow Christ. The Apostles Nathaniel and Philip understood, and willingly took the risk. Yet so many others won’t.
The question today, though, is what about us? Are we ready to accept the COST, the COMMITMENT, and make a FIRM, LIFELONG RESPONSE to follow our Lord?
Let's reflect on the COST. I remember the words of my New Testament professor at seminary, Fr. Theodore Stylianopoulos, who would say, "It costs nothing to become a Christian, but once you become one, it costs you everything." There is no cost to be baptized and join Christ’s holy Church. Once we are baptized and become members of the Church, however, then we are expected to live our entire life for Christ.
The great scandal of Christianity is the nominal Christian, those who call themselves followers of Jesus but who don't allow their faith to guide their lives. One is not Orthodox simply because their parents or grandparents were Orthodox. To be an Orthodox Christian implies that we have invited Jesus to enter and rule in our lives. We freely choose to live under the reign of God, not the reign of this world. Following Jesus should affect everything we do in our lives - how we act in our home, in the work place, in our hobbies and in the street. If we invite Christ to live in our hearts, than His light of love should radiate from our words, our actions, and our very being. People should understand our identity as Christians by how we live our lives.
After we understand this COST, then comes the COMMITMENT. We need to understand the big difference between simply believing intellectually in God and committing our lives to Him. How easy to say, "I believe Jesus was a wonderful teacher, a miracle worker, and even the Son of God." How hard, though, to say, "I commit my life to Christ. I commit to follow him in all that I do. My lifestyle and my values will reflect the teachings of Jesus. I will try to imitate His life of love, of forgiveness, of mercy, of compassion, of care for all people. I will accept any sacrifice, any suffering, any persecution because I am committed to Him. Believing intellectually is not enough. Actual committing our lives is the authentic sign of true belief.
Following such a commitment needs to come a wholehearted RESPONSE. Jesus doesn't want any lukewarm Christians to follow him. He demands us to give Him our whole heart, to give 100% of ourselves. In the book of Revelation, we hear Christ says, "I wish you were either hot or cold, but since you are lukewarm I will spit you out of my mouth." Wishy-washy Christians are not what Jesus wants. To follow our Lord is a life-long journey of continually recommitting our whole life to Christ. This is why we repeat 10 times during each Divine Liturgy, “with all the saints, let us commit ourselves, and one another and our whole life to Christ our God.”
To truly follow Christ is hard! It involves a demanding COST, COMMITMENT, and RESPONSE. Yet the fruits that follow such a path are incomparable – union with God, rich fellowship with our Creator, intimate love and friendship with our Savior. The life of a true follower of Christ is a struggle, yet through this struggle we experience divine love, a peace that passes all understanding, radiant joy and unyielding hope which sustains us through all of life’s struggles. This is what salvation is. This is why the saints throughout history chose to walk this narrow path.
This is also why we hear in today’s Gospel the Apostle Philip invite Nathaniel to “come and see,” to leave his family and livelihood in order to follow Jesus. And in every generation for the past 2000 years, people from all backgrounds of life have left their homes, their families, their comforts and their riches in order to follow the Lord of all!
Come and See! Jesus invites each of us today to follow Him - to accept the cost, to make the commitment, and to respond in a firm manner. Then we will discover the most joyful and exciting life possible! How will we respond?
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