Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Anatomy of a Calling (Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle)

In celebrating the Feast of St. Andrew, the Apostle, the Church puts before us for consideration the call of the first disciples (Peter, Andrew, James and John) from the Gospel of Matthew (Mt. 4:18-22). The story, while very brief, gives us food for thought regarding the "anatomy" of God and Christ's call in our lives. The calling begins with Jesus approaching the future disciples and instructing them to "come after him." Scripture scholars note that this would have been rather peculiar for Jesus to do. Most often, persons sought out a teacher rather than vice versa. Yet Jesus was radically different than the charismatic, "cults of personality" of his day. Rather than insist persons come to him on his terms for affiliation or instruction, he was constantly and incessantly reaching out to others and meeting them where they were.

Jesus' reputation likely preceded him to some degree and he must have also been charismatic because the disciples don't hesitate to set aside their daily responsibilities and immediately set out with him. As a matter of fact, Jesus alludes to the fact that his calling will result in the transformation of their lives when he says to Peter and Andrew, "come after me and I will make you fishers of men." In a sense, therefore, the disciples accept the invitation with the initial, unconditional acceptance that life as they know it is about to change in ways they never could have imagined.

However, this "initial, unconditional acceptance" of the disciples concerning precisely how their life would change gave way to many misunderstandings of Jesus, bumbling (especially on the part of Peter), resistance to his message, efforts to actively dissuade him from embracing his passion, jockeying for positions of primacy, and even denial and betrayal. The disciples got a lot more than what they bargained for!

That might be a really good way to summarize the "anatomy" of a calling by God: getting infinitely more than what we bargained for! The call and the one who calls is attractive and compelling: God is a great and even "restless" adventurer who has bold plans for our lives and world! God can captivate our minds, hearts, and imaginations so much that we assent to God's call with an "initial, unconditional acceptance." Like the disciples, however, following after Christ means eventual misunderstanding, bumbling, resistance, and perhaps even denial of what carrying the Cross means for our life and life's mission. We needn't be at all perturbed by this, however. The most important aspect of God's call is that it is progressive: note that Jesus says "I will make you fishers of men" and not, "you are fishers of men." What this means is that we can rest assured and trust that the God who calls is also the God who picks us up time and again, no matter how many times we stumble and fall. Pat, TOR