Here, very early on in the Gospel of Mark, we have the
call of the first Apostles. As we have noted already Mark
gets down to business fast, here in only verse sixteen of
his Gospel we find Jesus calling Simon and his brother
Andrew and then having gone on a little further he calls the sons of Zebedee, James and John.
Short though these four verses maybe, we find in them an extraordinary amount of detail. In fact there are six important features which are paradigms for all the other call and conversion stories in the New Testament. But they are not restricted to the pages of the Bible for they might well be also characteristics of our own story of call and conversion.
The first feature is that it is Jesus who takes the initiative. He is the one who does the calling —naturally no one can call themselves. The initiative must come from God and at a time and place of his choosing. This is the action of grace in our life and it does not depend on anything we do.
The second feature is that those who are called are engaged in ordinary work. Jesus does not normally choose people from the elite; he tends to choose from among the ordinary people. In this case they were fishermen, an occupation which involved hard work but also a certain amount of knowledge and skill. They are not ignoramuses but neither do they have an elite education or social advantage.
The third point to notice is that Christ’s call is quite explicit. He says simply but clearly: “follow me”. There is no ambiguity; those who experience this call certainly know that they are being called.
Of course, at the beginning nothing is made clear, things only gradually evolve and become clearer as time goes on. Those first Apostles couldn’t have known what answering the call would lead to. They did not know that, in the words of the poet, it would end up “costing not less than everything”. They just knew they must follow; only gradually over the course of time did the implications become clear to them.
The fourth point is that the Apostles are invited to share in the life and work of Jesus. They go where he goes; they do what he does; they say the things he says. They learn by example, by doing, they learn by living with him.
Fifthly, they leave their former life immediately and without hesitation. It is as if they have been waiting all their lives for that call and simply know that they must follow Jesus then and there, even though it might involve personal loss and sacrifice.
Lastly, their response is not something private, it means coming together with others who have similarly responded to the call of Jesus. It means travelling along the road together with these fellow disciples of Jesus.
In a certain sense that is a good definition of the Church—a group of Disciples of Christ travelling on the road of life together. Naturally they will support each other as they make their pilgrimage through life. Like any band of companions each one will find a particular role and make their contribution for the good of all.
It is amazing what you can get out of these few short verses of scripture. We see these six points in the calls of the other Apostles but we can perhaps recognise them also in our own lives. Those who have experienced a conversion later in their lives will perhaps more easily recognise this.
But maybe those of us who were baptised in infancy won’t find it quite so easy. However, if we think hard we will recognise that there was a point or perhaps several points in our lives when we did explicitly confirm that choice. It may have been when we received the Sacrament of Confirmation, but that acceptance of our call could just as easily have taken place at any stage of our life’s journey for God is constantly at work in our lives.
That’s looking back, of course. Looking back on our initial vocation, our decision to follow Christ, our choosing to respond to his call to become a member of his Church.
But what about looking forward? Those first Apostles responded to Jesus and followed him, but one at least strayed away and betrayed Jesus. And Peter himself, as we well know, denied Christ three times.
So, even the best of us fall down on the job. Following Jesus is not a once and for all decision. It is a choice we must make each day. As we put our feet over the side of the bed each morning and place them on the floor we must chose whether those feet will follow Christ today.
Will those feet of mine walk in his footsteps? Or will they walk in a different direction?
At the end of the day when I pick those feet up off the floor I could just as well ask myself a similar question. Where have those feet been during the day? Where did they walk? Is the dust on them the same dust as is on Christ’s feet?
And that is just in the ordinary course of events as we live out our Baptismal commitment. But sometimes we experience another call, a call within a call, as it were. At some point in our lives we might feel that God wants us to take a further step. We begin to experience a nagging feeling that we ought to deepen our Christian commitment that we should be a bit more radical.
Some or all of those six characteristics that we spoke about might come into play. We feel that God wants us to go on a further journey and just like those first Apostles we want to respond and immediately follow the Lord on this new deeper journey even though we might not know where it will lead.
It can strike us in different ways. I’ve been here at St Joseph’s this time around for only three years but I can see that there are many people who are carrying out their role as disciples of Christ in an extraordinary number of different ways. There are parishioners who raise money for the missions, others who are working for justice and peace, some who belong to organisations dedicated to serving the community in innovative ways.
Still others are involved in one or other aspect of pastoral care. This is not to speak of the many who are acting as catechists or those who are putting their musical and artistic talents at the service of the parish. There are too the many people involved in education in this parish with its strong connections to so many schools.
One of the things I have noticed is large number of Baptisms taking place here at St Joseph’s These many Baptisms are a cause of great joy for the parish. They are a sign of new life and bring us all hope for the future.
We celebrate the initiation of these new members of the Church and the working of the Holy Spirit in their lives. On their behalf their parents are responding to the call of Christ. The parents know that to bring their children to the waters of Baptism is one of the greatest gifts they could give to their child. For by doing so they help them to set off on that great journey of faith following in the footsteps of the Divine Saviour.
But we also rejoice that many young people and adults in this parish are also beginning a new and deeper journey. They are taking a new road with Christ. It may be a harder and rockier road, but he is calling and they are choosing to answer his call.
We rejoice and we encourage them. But the rest of us also need look inwards and ask ourselves if we too are not also being called to a deeper and more radical living out of our Christian faith.
Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
January 25, 2014
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B—January 25, 2015
In Ordinary Time, we hear “the preaching of the kingdom of God” through all the lectionary readings. Today, we find a dramatization of what that means for some of us.
Gospel (Read Mk 1:14-20)
In last Sunday’s Gospel, we reflected on Jesus’ first meeting with Andrew, John, and Simon Peter. These men were very interested in the new Rabbi whom John the Baptist, their teacher, had called “the Lamb of God.” Today’s reading describes how they, along with John’s brother, James, moved from being interested in Jesus to becoming His intimate companions and co-workers. How did this happen?
Third Sunday of Ordinary Time: It Is Never Too Late
Once a year I put on my classical duds and go to New York City to see an opera or two. A few years ago I saw Mozart’s Don Giovanni. The story is sometimes called Don Juan. It is the story of a horrible man who uses and dumps as many women as he can; laughing at the fact that he can’t even count his victims. At the end of the opera Don Giovanni or the play Don Juan, or for that matter, at the end of the opera Faust, the main character has the ability to be forgiven, but out of pride refuses to recognize his sins and would rather be condemned to hell.
How Do I Love God With All My Heart?
Dear Father John, I want to love God with all my heart, but I don’t know where to start. How do I do this?
LOVING GOD WITH all your heart means desiring him above all things and making your intimate, personal relationship with him into the highest priority of your life, the center around which every other facet of your existence finds its proper and glorious place. But how do you do that? How do you make that happen?
The Discovery of the Trinity
Two basic tenets of Catholic teaching are that 1) God revealed himself in a progressive revelation that was completed with the death of the last apostle and 2) since then the Church’s understanding of that complete revelation has deepened and developed.
Perhaps the classic model for understanding this process is seen in the revelation given by God concerning His own Triune nature. Certain critics of the Catholic Faith speak of the doctrine of the Trinity as an “invention” of the Church. However, it is closer to the mark to say that this truth was discovered rather than invented. For the Church, so far from creating anything, simply followed the clues left by God in His complete revelation given through Scripture and Tradition.
The clues were essentially as follows:
Direct All Things to God
Who would not wish to become simple? But how can this be achieved?
You must first meditate upon this virtue, in order to understand its primary importance, its absolute necessity, and to arouse within yourself the most ardent desire to possess it at any cost.
Without this ardent desire and resolute will, all of your efforts will be in vain. Your endeavors and your inclinations will woefully fail before your egoism, vanity, selfishness, passions, and all the human motives that constantly influence you and that overthrow the edifice of your simplicity as fast as you build it up.
But once possessed of the calm and resolute will to attain simplicity, this is what you must do:
My husband and I recently spoke about prayer and our prayer ministry, Pray More Novenas, at a local Theology on Tap event.
After our talk, there was a short break, and then we did a question & answer session. One of the questions has stuck with me since that night, and I wanted to share it with you all here…
It’s something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about in the past year or so.
The question was, “If our prayers aren’t answered after a novena, should we keep praying?”
Praying for Humility
St. Thomas Aquinas describes the task of humility: “to temper and restrain the mind, lest it tend to high things immoderately” (Summa theologiae, II-II, q. 161, a. 1). It is truly one of the most important virtues. All sin is pride against God and a denial of humility. Therefore, our obedience to God must be a humble and loving submission to Him and to following his will above our own.