“And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.” Luke 5:28
The calling of Matthew, also known as Levi, has always been a bit puzzling to me. How St. Matthew was simply able to get up from where he was and walk away from everything he ever knew to follow Christ.
What was it that prompted him to leave it all behind? How was it that he decided to start over?
If you back up one sentence, you will find the answer. Jesus said,
The gospel says that Jesus saw him. It does not say that he saw him as a “disciple” or as “perfection.” In fact, it says quite the opposite. It says that Jesus “saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post.” Jesus saw him as he was, in the current state that he was in. But that all changed with a simple invitation.
Jesus’ “follow me,” required Levi to first get up from where he was and physically depart from that place. Without movement, without the shedding of one’s old life physically, there can be no clarity of heart, no clearing of space.
The initial conversion of the soul from the old to the new requires the leaving behind of many things. Friends that are not good for you, addictions, and worldly lifestyles. Without removing ourselves from these things first, we cannot practice real gratitude. And without gratitude, we cannot be renewed by the Holy Spirit. This perpetual cycle moves from the physical realm to the spiritual, as Christ’s admonition to follow him becomes a change in the soul.
When Christ called me, I like many, was mired in mud that didn’t enable movement. I was physically stuck in that space. On my own, and for many years, I had tried to move that dial, but to no avail. The mud and the earth that swallowed me held me captive. So when Christ’s invitation came, I like Levi, moved my feet and followed.
When you leave behind this physical space, it frees you to work with and for Christ in making a new self. But we are human and so often get stuck again in that mud, comfortable in our surroundings and unable to move. Jesus is calling and we are not listening.
Comfort becomes the enemy of Christ
Christianity is uncomfortable. It is the God I just got here or God I am afraid that keeps us from forward movement. Christ does not call us to be comfortable, he calls us to be sojourners. Sometimes the journey takes us out of our immediate physical space, like a new job or a new church. But sometimes, as with the Lenten season, He beckons the soul, “Follow Me,” and shows us our inward self- the self that needs to change.
I crave comfort. I hold onto it for dear life. I like the familiar, the knowing where I am going, the certainty of where I am. I have found that every time I grow comfortable, I start to feel a nudge. Then that still small voice, very quiet, very gentle, Follow me.
I hear it faintly, but I do not want to move. I am afraid.
Living Catholic is living outside of your comfort zone. It is adventure and soaring and being in places and spaces that you never expected. It is experiencing an inexplicable joy in your deepest pain. It is the discovering of who you really are, what your calling is, and the work that God created especially for you so very long ago. If you are looking to live life to the fullest, Christ is the way.
This is what continues to motivate me. The idea that when I abandon myself, when I repent when I shed old layers of skin, I become closer to what God has in store for me. These cycles repeat as we travel through life, coming close to the next stop on the liturgical calendar where we are called once again to follow Christ to the place that He wants us. This cycle of working out our salvation, comfort and then change helps us to continue to develop the virtues we need to work on. We work on one thing, then another.
For instance, sit in the space you are in for a moment and ask yourself these questions:
Am I comfortable?
Am I growing?
How am I serving God in this space?
If you are restless, there is something that God is trying to get across to you. Read the gospel in Luke 5: 28 AGAIN.
Lent is that time Christ is talking about. If you haven’t committed to these 40 days already, DO IT NOW. Leave everything behind. The world can wait for you but Christ can’t. He needs you NOW. He needs your heart and your eyes, your hands and your feet. He needs you to listen. He needs you to set this time aside to rest.
What does that look like? For me, it is morning meditation, more silence. It is less talking and more listening. It is giving up control to Christ. It is sitting back and not pushing. It is taking myself out of the driver’s seat. It is telling Christ from the depths of my soul- heal me, cleanse me Lord. It is giving up comfort.
If you have not already chosen what to give up this Lent, today Christ beckons you to give up what is comfortable. If you don’t know what that is, ask Him. Pray a bold prayer and ask Him to take it away in favor of a life lived solely for Him. Ask Him to replace your comfort with His will. Get ready to go on the greatest adventure of your life.
Pray this prayer with me today.
I want to experience the greatest spiritual adventure of my life this Lent. I ask you Lord to take away anything that is comfortable in exchange for following you, whatever that looks like and whatever that means. Help me to let go of material possessions and worldly comforts in favor of a life lived only for you. I want to follow you Lord wherever this prayer leads. Work in my soul Lord, speak to me today, and free me from anything in my life that takes precedence over you. If it’s weighing me down, get rid of it, and help me start walking with you in the way that you have called me.
In your holy name I pray,