Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news." As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea--for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him. -Mark 1:14-20
The stark immediacy of Mark’s account of the call of two sets of brothers reverberates with its silence and lack of detail. Within that resonant silence, however, lies everything that will happen to the disciples after they commit themselves to Jesus. In that silence you and I find our own responses to the call and its consequences. This story holds all of our stories.
At first, the call may unfold like a love story changing the very patterns of daily life (Meditation One). But as deeper knowledge follows, you may realize that these changes are not merely superficial, but deeply transformative (Meditation Two). And this love-as-strong-as- death (Song of Songs 8:6) fosters a practice of justice, and a peace which passeth all understanding (Meditation Three).
Meditation One (Introit) Falling in Love Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.
The Sacred Call is transformative. It is an invitation to our souls, a mysterious voice reverberating within, a tug on our hearts that can neither be ignored nor denied. It contains, by definition, the purest message and promise of essential freedom. It touches us at the center of our awareness. When such a call occurs and we hear it – really hear it – our shift to higher consciousness is assured.
-David A. Cooper Parabola, Volume XIX, Number 1, February, 1994, The Call p.11
Meditation Three (Integration) "The Peace of God" The followers of Christ have been called to peace. … And they must not only have peace but also make it. And to that end they renounce all violence and tumult. In the cause of Christ nothing is to be gained by such methods. … His disciples keep the peace by choosing to endure suffering themselves rather than inflict it on others. They maintain fellowship where others would break it off. They renounce hatred and wrong. In so doing they over-come evil with good, and establish the peace of God in the midst of a world of war and hate.
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945 The Cost of Discipleship
The peace of God, it is no peace, but strife closed in the sod. Yet let us pray for but one thing- the marvelous peace of God.
-William Alexander Percy (1885-1942) from the hymn "They cast their nets in Galilee"
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding...
-Philippians 4:7, and the opening words of a traditional blessing
The Last Word O Lord, this my soul is wider than the world, its longing from depths deeper than any valley, the pain of desire is more troubling than the faint lost bell notes. Only thyself canst fill so vast an emptiness.
–Romano Guardini 1885-1968 Sacred Signs
The Calling of Peter and Andrew, Duccio, 1308-11
About the Painting
Here, Duccio's Byzantine influence is unmistakable. I love Duccio and I love this painting. Jesus stands against an iconic mountain on the land, calling to the two disciples in the boat upon the water against a blank, golden sky. The fish alone seem animated - the viewer sees time suspended, a moment encoded with portents and possibility.
Reality is not like the painting. Seagulls swarm the boat, women and vendors wait impatiently on the shore. Old men watch, assessing everything from the fishermens' bodily strength, to the weave of the nets, to the condition of the boat, to the catch. Children run around. Feral cats and stray dogs wait stealthily for scraps.
Duccio's scene, pared down like an icon, lacks only one thing; the viewer accepting the invitation to step in. The painting draws me into the scene, placing me between Jesus and the boat. I feel Andrew turning around. I'm caught between Peter's hard gaze and Jesus' outstretched hand.
Situated in this way, I hear the words of Jesus addressed not only to Andrew and Peter but to me. “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of people.”
This first stage of the mythological journey – which we have designated the “call to adventure” – signifies the destiny has summoned the hero and transferred his spiritual center of gravity from within the pale of his society to a zone unknown. This fateful region of both treasure and danger may be variously represented; as a distant land, a forest, a kingdom underground, beneath the waves, or above the sky, a secret island, lofty mountaintop, or profound dream state; but it is always a place of strangely fluid and polymorphous beings, unimaginable torments, superhuman deeds, and impossible delight.
– Joseph Campbell 1904-1987 The Hero With A Thousand Faces p.48
But whether small or great, and no matter what the stage or grade of life, the call rings up the curtain, always, on a mystery of transfiguration – a rite, or moment, of spiritual passage, which, when complete, amounts to a dying and a birth. The familiar life horizon has been outgrown; the old concepts, ideals, and emotional patterns no longer fit; the time for the passing of a threshold is at hand.
– Ibid., p.43
The liturgy is not interested in concepts but in concrete Christian life; it shows what it means to be chosen by God and what mission the choice involves. Nor is the liturgy interested in any abstract theology of God's choice; it intends rather to show us the God who chooses.
All this is relevant to us. We do not need theories about God's choice. We know for a fact that through our baptism we were chosen by God. Indeed, the name given in antiquity to those preparing for baptism was “the elect, the chosen.” What they were elected to and chosen for was to share in God's life and to accept the consequences of that sharing. We must accept those consequences in our own lives.
-Adrian Nocent OSB The Liturgical Year
All servants of the cross rightly venerate the lover of the cross. But this devotion is the more incumbent upon those who have set themselves to bear the cross in an especial sense. It is to you, brethren, and of you that I speak - of you, who are not deaf to the Gospel trumpet-call, 'Whoseover doth not bear his cross and come after Me, cannot be My disciple.'
-Bernard of Clairvaux 1090-1153 The Vigil of Saint Andrew the Apostle
To deny oneself is to be aware only of Christ and no more of self, to see only him who goes before and no more of the road that is too hard for us
Darest thou now O soul, Walk out with me toward the unknown region, Where neither ground is for the feet nor any path to follow?
No map there, nor guide, Nor voice sounding, nor touch of human hand, Nor face with blooming flesh, nor lips, nor eyes, are in that land.
I know it not O soul, Nor dost thou, all is a blank before us, All waits undream’d of in that region, that inaccessible land.
Till when the ties loosen, All but the ties eternal, Time and Space, Nor darkness, gravitation, sense, nor any bounds bounding us.
Then we burst forth, we float, In Time and Space O soul, prepared for them, Equal, equipt at last, (O joy! O fruit of all!) them to fulfil O soul.
– Walt Whitman 1819-1892
When I was twenty-two, when The Call was new and fearsome, I felt overwhelmed by feelings of attraction and repulsion. I felt drawn to the Holy but I was afraid that if I said “yes” in some way, I'd never find my way back.
I had a dream about a threshold in the fog. From then on I imagined myself as a cartoon character, except that instead of Wile E. Coyote or Sylvester, it was me comically straddling the door jamb, resisting being sucked into what seemed like a non-rational, bottomless nothingness beyond.
That was The Call for me - inevitable, but unknown, and, in the end, beyond my control.
Finally, exhausted, somehow I took the step, or slid through, or, fell asleep and woke up on the other side.
You'd think that after almost fifty years, faith would get easier. But I still struggle intellectually, morally, emotionally, and spiritually with faith. I still resist every threshold of widening consciousness, opportunities to grow and to love and to grow in love. I question, doubt, grumble, guffaw, choke on my pride, revel maniacally in distractions and exhaust myself with avoidance of Divine Presence.
Nevertheless, The Call is renewed every day, and I've learned to respond in some way. And I do know, despite all my resistance is that really all I want is the very thing I resist, that is, to surrender in love.