The preacher said, “There’s no such thing as a perfect woman. Anybody present who has ever known a perfect woman, stand up.”
Nobody stood up.
“Those who have ever known a perfect man, stand up.”
Well, Ol’ Man Boudreaux stood up.
“Are you honestly saying you knew an absolutely perfect man?” he asked, somewhat amazed.
“Well now, I didn’t know him personally,” Boudreaux replied, “but I have heard a great deal about him. He was Clotile’s first husband.”
Charles Halloway is the father in Ray Bradbury’s, Something Wicked This Way Comes. At one point, he comments, “Too late, I found you can’t wait to become perfect, you got to go out and fall down and get up with everybody else.”
That is a very true statement and although we may try to fall as little as possible, we are still going to fall. However, when it comes to our Christian faith and following Jesus, we’ve come to believe that we must first attain perfection with no falls. Our pants must be freshly dry cleaned and properly creased, our halos on straight, our eyebrows not too bushy, and our sins far behind us. Trouble is, we’ll be dead and we still won’t be there.
Imagine, our Gospel reading: “As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’” Peter responds, I’m sorry. I can’t do that right now. I stink of fish, Andrew is still sporting the black eye from when I popped him one last week for tell me I was getting fat, and I haven’t been to synagogue but twice in the last two months. Jesus then, turning to look at Peter says with disdain on his face, “You’re right. Never mind. You are in fact a complete loser.”
Well, of course Jesus did not say that to Peter, even though most of it could have been true, but Jesus did not come looking for the perfect: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
A fable tells of a man who was casually shopping in a store but then discovered that God was behind the sales counter. So the man walked over and asked, “What are You selling?”
God replied, “What does your heart desire?”
The man said, “I want happiness, peace of mind, holiness, to be without sin, freedom from fear… for me and the whole world.”
God smiled and said, “I don’t sell fruit here. Only seeds.”
Jesus saying, “Follow me”, is Jesus desiring to plant a seed within us so that he might begin a great work in our souls. If there were finished products on the earth, he never would have come in the first place, but there weren’t. There were people like Peter and Andrew who were no different than the rest, except that they allowed that seed to be planted within them and they allowed it to grow. They also took their spills along the way. Everything from denying Jesus, to doubting, disappointed, frustration, and all that we feel. What made them great, was that they never gave up. They never uprooted what was planted within them and cast it aside as though it were a weed.
Brennan Manning, author of The Ragamuffin Gospel, wrote, “What makes authentic disciples is not visions, ecstasies, biblical mastery of chapter and verse, or spectacular success in the ministry, but a capacity for faithfulness. Buffeted by the fickle winds of failure, battered by their own unruly emotions, and bruised by rejection and ridicule, authentic disciples may have stumbled and frequently fallen, endured lapses and relapses, gotten handcuffed to the fleshpots and wandered into a far country. Yet, they kept coming back to Jesus.”
Peter, James, John, Andrew and all the rest, we may not read about it in the Acts of the Apostles—seems no one likes to document their own failings—but they, like us, stumbled, fell, wandered and so forth, but they always stood back up again and returned. Always. We are going to do the same thing. Some of those fallings are going to be more spectacular than others, but as long as we don’t intentionally uproot the seed that has been planted within us, then it will continue to grow and we do this to attain two main goals. The first is perhaps the more selfish one: so that we might attain Heaven. The second goal is not about us, but about the other…
There is a legend that recounts the return of Jesus to glory after His time on earth. Even in heaven He bore the marks of His earthly pilgrimage with its cruel cross and shameful death. The angel Gabriel approached Him and said, “Master, you must have suffered terribly for men down there.” He replied that he did. Gabriel continued: “And do they know and appreciate how much you loved them and what you did for them?” Jesus replied, “Oh, no! Not yet. Right now only a handful of people in Palestine know.” But Gabriel was perplexed. He asked, “Then what have you done to let everyone know about your love for them?” Jesus said, “I’ve asked Peter, James, John, and a few more friends to tell others about me. Those who are told will tell others, in turn, about me. And my story will be spread to the farthest reaches of the globe. Ultimately, all of humankind will have heard about my life and what I have done.”
Gabriel frowned and looked rather skeptical. He well knew something about human beings. He said, “Yes, but what if Peter and James and John grow weary? What if the people who come after them forget? What if way down in the twentieth-century people just don’t tell others about you? Haven’t you made any other plans?” And Jesus answered, “I haven’t made any other plans. I’m counting on them.” (Source)
Jesus says, “Follow me” and if we accept, he plants a seed in our souls. As it grows, we will experience times of sanctification and we will also stumble and fall, but when we fall, through faith, we rise again that others might know they can do the same, so that in the end, we might all have the seed of Christ planted in us and rise in glory, and together achieve the first goal: Heaven.
Let us pray: Most Holy Spirit of God, make us faithful followers of Jesus, obedient children of the Church and a help to our neighbors. Give us the grace to keep the commandments and to receive the sacraments worthily. Raise us to holiness in the state of life to which You have called us and lead us to everlasting life. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.