By BISHOP ROBERT HAYES JR.
Sometimes one word is all you need. One word, carefully placed, often can convey as much as an entire sentence of words strung together with some attempt at correct grammar.
When I was a little boy, my grandmother and mother possessed the ability to say a lot with just one word. Most often that word was NO.
And on many occasions, they didn’t have to say anything! I remember the look that stopped me cold if I was about to do something wrong. You know, that look! Something in their eyes made it clear that if I continued down that path, things would not end on a pleasant note.
I even recall hearing a grunt that preceded NO at times.
If those two actions didn’t work, some serious consequence likely followed for me.
A lot of one- to three-word phrases stand out as important. Here are two of the most crucial words you will ever utter: I’m sorry. Oh, how I wish more people would say those words. If you are able to speak I’m sorry, you will find that can go a long way in mending fences and building bridges.
The same is true with I love you or You are forgiven. Yes, little words can mean a lot.
We find ourselves in the Church’s season of Epiphany — marking the period in Jesus’ life when he made himself known to the world. Matthew’s Gospel describes this wonderful scene where Jesus calls his first disciples.
Most of us are familiar with the his statement "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people." But one word brings together that entire scene: immediately. It’s very clear: "Immediately they left their nets."
And just after Jesus called Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, he also called James and John, the sons of Zebedee. They, too, left everything immediately and followed Jesus. They acted so suddenly that they actually left their father alone in the boat!
Other translations of this biblical passage use words such as "straight away," "at once," and "without hesitation." These phrases emphasize the urgency of that moment.
Put simply, those disciples didn’t even think about their decision. They left all and went with Jesus — abandoning their nets, fish, boats, even their father!
What in our Lord’s appeal made them promptly leave everything? Was it his look, his voice, his eyes?
I think all those aspects affected them, but I also believe that Jesus appealed to their discontent. Fishing nets and predicting the tides did not satisfy them — they were looking for more.
The same is true in our time. Americans have every convenience available that we can imagine, and we have achieved more than ever before in technology, but something is missing.
There is a longing inside that just won’t go away — until we put aside all the things and go with Jesus!
People like to say they are Christians and they love the Lord, but they still hold on to things that get between them and the Christ they claim to serve. They measure their discipleship not so much by duty but by asking, "What is it going to cost me?"
To answer, those who are comfortable think they must give up that lifestyle, and those with material possessions think they must relinquish what they own. For youth, it’s popularity; for the busiest folks, it’s about giving up their time.
If only you realized what you get in return for making all else secondary in your life. Like those disciples, you would put everything behind you and immediately go with Jesus.
Augustine, described as a notorious sinner before his conversion, wrote: "What I feared to be parted from was now a joy to part with. For once I was convinced to cast away all earthly things; in their place came Jesus, sweeter than all pleasure."
During World War II, two soldiers were forced to seek shelter in a ditch beside a road that was being bombed by the enemy. They hugged the ground, in fear for their lives. Whistling, a young corporal came down that road, never flinching as shells and bombs exploded.
As he passed the two men, they looked at him and then at each other.
Without hesitation, they jumped from the ditch and walked with him to safety. The character of the corporal lifted them to action.
Jesus Christ can do the same for you. The price you must pay is to act immediately. Will you follow him?