In today’s Gospel, Jesus invites some of the men who will become his disciples to come and follow him. They lay down their nets immediately in Mark’s rendition and follow him. He walks on a little further and invites two more men and they too leave the boat and their father to follow him at once.
What is it that you will leave behind to follow Christ? How quickly will you leave it? These are challenging questions and yet the invitation comes gently, “Come, follow Me.” When Christ calls, do you recognize that Voice over all others?
There is a powerful scene in the movie, Selma, in which Martin Luther King, Jr. drops to his knees and prays on the bridge before making a hard decision. As he bows in prayer, so do all those marching with him. When he rises, people are confused and yet one cannot help but wonder what God said to him at that moment. The outcome is mixed if we look only at the short-term event that followed but not if one looks with the long view of God’s eyes.
The Call of the King is a beautiful exercise of the Spiritual Exercises. The retreatant imagines an earthly leader who invites on a mission. Then the retreatant imagines Christ the King calling, “Come!” In prayer, the retreatant is asked to see the qualities of these two leaders and their own reaction to each. I could not help but think of this exercise while watching Selma. King called many and he often had to discern which way to go and how to go. He kept his eyes on the true King it seems. He was not sidetracked by Malcolm X or President Johnson. He was not deterred by violence. He was not distracted by in-house arguments. He knew his mission and tried to accomplish it.
Other leaders in the film–Johnson, Senator Wallace, J. Edgar Hoover–they all are seen leading with their egos. Somehow, they abandon their lives of faith, if they have them, to cling to power and fame. The Exercises teach us to let go of all but Christ. I was touched by Coretta’s ability to step past the shame of the infidelity of her husband to join him on the mission. She seemed like a woman who knew what King she was really following.
We have to leave behind so much when we are leaders if we are to be the kind that people will leave everything and immediately follow. As a leader we need to peel off our wants, our goals, our weariness, our egos, our dreams, our security, for the greater good. We stand on solid ground when we lead with eyes fixed on Christ. This is the One who will gently call us while we go about our day’s work and say “Come, follow me.” Not all of us will have to lay down our lives in obedience to this call like Dr. King and the King he followed, but we will have our daily deaths. What must you lay down in order to boldly and immediately follow Christ?