If you want to be happy, be faithful.
The Second Sunday after Pentecost.
The Holy Martyr Timothy, Bishop of Prusa. A Sunday within the Apostles Fast.
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9:46 PM 6/11/2012 — On the surface we may find it difficult to see a relevant example for us in the story of how Simon Peter and Andrew are called to follow our Lord. We're not expecting, surely, to be working at our jobs, encounter our Lord, and quit our jobs and leave everything behind to follow Jesus. But when you think about it, we do experience this kind of thing. When two people fall in love, it usually happens quite unexpectedly. Most of the time, two people meet not expecting to fall head over heals and end up getting married. You may find the analogy strained, since Simon and Andrew aren’t going to marry Jesus; but, marriage is a vocation, just like the priesthood, and this Gospel, which is always closely associated with vocations to the priesthood, can be instructive for all of us; and, it illustrates the fact that the call to follow our Lord, whether it leads to the Holy Priesthood or to marriage or to any other vocation which calls us to holiness, is never answered in just one moment. We answer it every minute of every day, until the end of our days. Peter answered the call that first day he met our Lord, as we just read; he failed to answer that same call on the day he betrayed our Lord three times; he answered it again on that day in Rome when he gave his life as a martyr for Christ.
And this is something that most of us know from our own experience. Those of you who are married know that saying "I do" on the day of your wedding is not the end of the story. It's true that on that day you are giving a definitive answer to a call which you fully intend to be a lifetime commitment, but the choice is not made only on that day; the choice is made every day of your life that you have to live with that person. And every time the circumstances change, and every time there's some difficulty, and every time there's temptation—every time something happens that causes you to wish you had not answered that call—you have to make a choice. The experience of the Priesthood is no different.
Now, when our Lord ran into Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, they didn't completely know what they were getting into. If Peter had known that his following this man would mean that he would end up murdered in a far away country, do you think he would have dropped his nets and walked off after Jesus? Probably not. And who would have blamed him? And yet, when the time came for him to bear witness in Rome, he counted it a privilege to shed his blood for Christ.
And, whether we realize it or not, there are people around us who go through this same process, people whom you would never suspect of possessing great heroism, people who secretly carry in their hearts the constant burden of sacrifice to remain faithful to a choice made in faith, whether to a spouse or to the Church or simply to life itself in the face of some painful illness or emotional suffering. And they remain faithful. Why?
Peter was not prepared to die for our Lord that first day he met Jesus. If he had seen the future, he wouldn't have followed our Lord, he'd have run for the hills. He followed precisely because he did not know what he was getting into. But when the time came, he made the supreme sacrifice for Christ. By that time, he was prepared: he had followed and learned from our Lord for three years; he had grown in his faith to the point that Jesus could entrust him with the care of the Church on earth, all of which graces he could never have received had he not said "Yes" that first day. It's the same in marriage: just because a young couple receives instruction from the priest or goes to some class doesn't mean they're prepared for married life. A priest meets with a couple several times for instruction prior to performing a marriage to make sure they understand what the Church expects of them in married life, but not with the idea that after talking to the priest they're going know what marriage is all about. That's something they have to learn for themselves. And they learn it by making a choice every day to be faithful. The easiest time they make that choice is on their wedding day. And every time they face a difficulty, they have to make that choice again. But every time they make that choice, they're stronger for it. And eventually, if they remain faithful, they'll realize that the challenges they're conquering now are challenges they would have never been able to meet at the time they were married, challenges that would have scared them off had they known about them on the day of their wedding.
"If you would be my disciple," said our Lord, "you must deny yourself, take up your cross every day, and follow me." Every day. Not just once. And it's true not only for commitments like marriage or the Priesthood. In this day and age, just being a Christian is a struggle. The promises made for us by our parents and godparents on the day or our baptism we make again and again whenever we're faced with a moral choice. And it's easy to surrender. One can always find convincing reasons to choose comfort and self-fulfillment over sacrifice. But the Lord hasn't left us to face these choices alone. Grace is not a fairy tale. The Spanish priest and spiritual doctor, St. Josémaría Escrivá, used to say, "If you want to be happy, be faithful; if you want to be more happy, be more faithful; if you want to be very happy, be very faithful." Let us all pray that we will choose to be very happy by being very faithful to the choices we have made, and the choices we continue to make every day.
Father Michael Venditti