Religion column — “Follow me”

Published 7:00 am Saturday, July 13, 2019

By Fr. Jonathan Filkins

So, let’s say you decided to kick back on the beach with your buddies and throw back a few cold ones. You are having a great time, doing what you have done many times before. The sun is out, the breeze is light and the waves are gently lapping upon the shore.

Everyone in attendance works hard at their jobs, and this weekend respite was just what “the doctor ordered.” Two members, of the group, are brothers; the rest met at work, or through friends. What binds these men together is common experience, for they support each other through time and trouble.

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As per the usual, the conversations devolved into a gripe session. Nothing in particular; just grousing about the kids, or the bills, or the job, or a relationship. Yet this, in part, was what the gathering was for. “Talking it out,” was a communal way to find individual answers. In reality, each man was successful, both in the business world and at home. As the Sun dipped into the waters of the Gulf, a figure slowly appeared along the shoreline. At first, just a shapeless mass was visible, but began to turn into a solo walker. Soon, the fellow was fully visible; dressed not unlike those who had gathered in comradery and fellowship. As the stranger came closer, he smiled, waved and said, “Hello!” One of the group held up a beer and gave a wave, inviting the unknown traveler to their midst.

Taking his place upon the sandy soil, the conversation continued, as the stranger remarked, “Thank you for the beer, but I shall have to pass. Today, I am on a journey and seek another form of intoxication.” The stranger went on. “I am seeking those who will spread the Good News of God in an unholy land.”

Hearing these words, the group now regretted having brought this fellow into their midst. Several of them slid back, away from the object of their concern. There was a palpable tension, as the question of mental stability began to creep in. All the group had wanted to do was go about their usual business…and this madman had shown up.

The unease soon turned into action, as one of the men suddenly remembered a commitment. The entirety was soon breathing a bit easier, as they pointed their locked-door cars towards the safety of points north. Their final image was the lone man standing on the beach with his arms open, and an enormous smile on his face.

While we may tell ourselves, we are oh-so-sophisticated and have developed our propensities to discern “nut-jobs,” our abilities are not much better than two millennia ago. Consider those fishermen who toiled at the Sea of Galilee and supported their families and, perhaps more. We have a report of this strange “fellow,” who strolls up to them and states, “Follow me!” This odd person, Jesus Christ, has the audacity to require them to drop everything they have been doing in life, give up the comforts of hearth and home and feeding families, to wander around spreading the word about what is an extraordinarily revolutionary and incendiary idea.

This is the dichotomy of the Christian faith. Either Jesus Christ was a completely insane, with the innate ability to trick others into believing his miracles, or he is the Son of God. We should note that the Bible does not reveal an extensive account of what transpired on those shores of the Sea of Galilee, but it does reveal these fishermen soon drooped their nets and followed Jesus. Even their father Zebedee, to whom the burden of provender was passed, concurred.

In the time of Jesus, as in our own time, there were many false prophets. Indeed, there are those who assume the mantle of the divine; when they are possessed by something entirely different. The modern stranger on the beach could have been unbalanced, or a “false prophet.” Or, could he have been someone else…?