Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus tells Matthew, “Follow me.” The call of Jesus addresses the mind, but it is meant to move through the mind into the body, and through the body into the whole of one’s life, into the most practical of moves and decisions. “Follow me” has the sense of “apprentice to me” or “walk as I walk; think as I think; choose as I choose.” Discipleship entails an entire reworking of the self according to the pattern and manner of Jesus.
Upon hearing the address of the Lord, the tax collector, we are told, “got up and followed him.” The Greek word behind “got up” is anastas, the same word used to describe the resurrection (anastasis) of Jesus from the dead. Following Jesus is indeed a kind of resurrection from the dead, since it involves the transition from a lower form of life to a higher, from a preoccupation with the temporary goods of this world to an immersion in the goodness of God.
Those who have undergone a profound conversion tend to speak of their former life as a kind of illusion, something not entirely real. Thus Paul can say, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”; Thomas Merton can speak of the “false self” that has given way to the authentic self; and, perhaps most movingly, the father of the prodigal son can say, “This son of mine was lost and has been found; he was dead and has come back to life.”