My dear friends in our Lord: Glory to Jesus Christ!
My friends, inasmuch as we have been deprived of our blessed and divine primeval life by the sin of our first parents, we are cast down into a dishonourable way of life, condemned to death, becoming enslaved to the enemy of mankind, the devil, through carnal lusts and passions; therefore, we required God to be made man – God, Who did not wish to be deprived of the creation of His hands or even to turn away from it when it was perishing.
By Him We were created, and from Him we receive renewal. For this reason the only-begotten Son and ever-existing Word of God, He Who is ageless and inseparable from the Father, in His goodness He had compassion on our nature, which had fallen from the state of original blessedness through sin.
At the fullness of time He desired and willed to become like us in all things except sin. Hence, He whom the entire universe could not contain was contained in the Womb of the Blessed Virgin. He who is uncircumscribable was circumscribed by flesh, and by His union with us He deified the flesh which He assumed.
Since our Lord God accomplished salvation for fallen humanity in His coming in the flesh, it is fitting that there would be witnesses to His ineffable dispensation, men who took part in His teaching and His mysteries, and who could record and preach His work, so that through such instruments our Lord might grant the whole human the chance ot hear the good news of the grace purchased by His most precious blood – the grace of the renewal of nature, and a return to blessedness.
Thus it happened, in seeking and selecting such as would be His disciples and apostles to spread this good news, that in today’s Gospel we hear that our Lord comes to the Sea of Galilee, and, as the Gospel says:
“[S]aw two brethren, Simon who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea (for they were fishers). And He saith to them: Come ye after Me, and I will make you to be fishers of men. And they immediately leaving their nets, followed Him.”
The great apostle Peter and his brother Andrew were, of course, Jews by birth; they lived in Galilee, an area of Palestine; their native place was Bethsaida, a certain small and seemingly insignificant town.
Tradition tells us that Saint Peter was married to the daughter of Aristobulus, himself brother of the Apostle Barnabas, and by her he had one son and one daughter. He was impetuous and intelligent, he was busy with the things of this world, and quite understandably, since he had a wife and children to care for, and also took care of his aged father.
Saint Andrew, by contrast, led a life that was not concerned with a wife or possessions. He was a disciple of the Prophet and Forerunner, John the Baptist. When Saint Andrew had heard hear Saint John the Baptist say, “Behold the Lamb of God,” indicating to our Lord Jesus Christ, Saint Andrew then followed Christ, together with another disciple.
Afterwards, Andrew also brought his brother Peter to Christ, Who, when He saw him, said, “Thou art Simon; Thou shalt be called Cephas,” which is by interpretation, Peter, or a stone. By this name, the fathers tell us, the Lord indicated the firmness of Saint Peter’s mind.
Thus it was that these two apostles, Andrew and Peter, had first became acquainted with our Lord, though they were not chosen by Christ to be disciples at that time. For after John the Baptist was detained in prison, Andrew went back to his trade, and fished together with his brother Peter.
When Christ came upon them again, as we hear in today’s Gospel, He called them, saying, Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. Because they were already acquainted with Christ, and had earlier been taught by Him, they readily followed Him, displaying great prudence and obedience.
The Gospel continues: “And going on from thence, He saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets.”
These sons of Zebedee, James and John, were natives of Bethsaida, just as were Peter and Andrew. Seeing Peter and Andrew follow Christ, they, too, were prepared to follow Him after their example.
“[A]nd He called them. And they forthwith left their nets and father, and followed Him.”
While clearly, there is great virtue in taking care of an elderly father and living by one’s just labour, tradition tells us that the father of the Apostles James and John, Zebedee, did not yet believe in Christ, and therefore in order to fulfill the call of Christ, his sons here left him. For, as we have recently heard in the Gospel, when father or mother, children or brothers or friends are harmful to piety and virtue, then it is right to leave them.
“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom: and healing all manner of sickness and every infirmity, among the people.”
In order to show that He is not opposed to the Law, Christ, Who is the Giver of the Law, entered the synagogues of the Jews and taught therein. He also began to work miracles, in order to lead to faith those whom He taught and upon whom He performed the miracles.
“And His fame went throughout all Syria, and they presented to Him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and such as were possessed by devils, and lunatics, and those that had palsy, and He cured them.”
Our Lord did not inquire or ask about the faith of the sick who came or were brought to Him; for it was evidence enough of their faith that they had come or been brought to Him from afar.
“[A]nd much people followed Him from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain, and when He was set down, His disciples came unto Him. And opening His mouth, He taught them.”
Seeing the people, Christ goes up into a mountain, not wishing to do anything for show or simply to please men. Inasmuch as He also wished to teach, He shows us that we should avoid the worldly crowd when we teach. The people come for miracles, but disciples come for instruction. and so, after working miracles and healing their bodies, He heals also their souls by His teaching. Not without reason does the Evangelist say that, opening His mouth, He taught them; for even Without opening His lips Christ was always teaching everyone by His life and miracles.
The Lord also draws and calls us through the Apostles in the Gospel, when He says, Come and follow Me. Let us not be content, my friends, with fleeting and perishable things, nor let us be overcome by eartly and temporal things; let us, rather, be attached to What is eternal, removing ourselves from the disquiet of this world. Let us flee the passions of the surging sea of this life, leaving behind its storminess and the consequent mortal danger of drowning. Let us leave behind this life, filled as it is with passions and sins, troubles and unrest. Let us cast aside our evil imaginations, with which our ancient enemy, the devil, attempts to ensare our minds. Let us despise the even the comfort and cares of our body so that we might readily arise and follow Christ Who is calling us, and let us walk in the way of His commandments.
It might not be through Judaea and Galilee that we are called to travel with our Lord; but rather, we are called reverently to visit all the cities and lands of the heavenly virtues – to walk the path of peace, to work in the lands of piety, to dwell in the city of blessedness, as is pleasing to God.
And not only shall we be labourers of the Gospel; we shall also be guides and teachers for others, and shall encourage them to imitate the zeal which is enkindled within us by the grace of God.
Let us understand brethren, that on account of our sins God has permitted various evils to befall men, such as captivity, corruption, and loss; let us remember the malice and the efforts of our enemies against us, and how harmful and sorrowful they are.
From now on let us not apply ourselves lazily and dejectedly, but let us bestir ourselves and strive to cast aside our sins and wickedness. With tears and sighs let us entreat the kind-hearted and long-suffering Lord. Let us correct ourselves in all our habits, and be prepared to resist our enemies. For if We do not repent, if we do not depart from our wickedness and iniquity, if we do not strive to do good, we shall perish at the hands of God’s just judgement and wrath.
At the same time, God has promised good things to them that pray to Him and serve Him.
Hearing these things, my friends, let us tremble in holy fear, and let us strive to keep God’s commandments. If we are lying in sins, let us be converted; if we are standing in virtue and righteousness, let us not grow lazy and lie down. Thus may we be delivered from all evil, adversity, afflictions, and the assaults of our enemies in this life, and be freed from wretched torments, and be vouchsafed eternal good things; through the grace of our true God and Saviour Jesus Christ, to Whom are due all glory, honour, and worship, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.