When I read today’s gospel, I am astounded. I try to imagine what it would take for someone to call me with such power, charisma, and force that I would instantaneously walk away from my job and family in order to hear more. I cannot fathom it. At the same time, I long for that experience. I yearn to know for sure whether I am "fishing" in the right ways, in the right waters, with the right people, for the right goals. I want Jesus to call me as clearly and forcefully as he called his disciples in the gospel. I want to be drawn irresistibly in God’s direction, so I can be certain of the path.
Yet, the shock value of this gospel causes me to pause and wonder whether the story is repeated exactly as it happened. Were the disciples really that certain? Did they follow without doubts, without wondering whether they had made the right decision? Did their family and friends support them in their choice? Were they shaken in their resolve when the road became rough? Did they at times wish they could just go back to their nets and their fishing boats? (And didn’t they in fact do so after Jesus was crucified?).
Perhaps they are more similar to me than I previously imagined. They, too, had to struggle to discern God’s will, even though they had God standing right in front of them. Indeed, one of them had such doubts that he betrayed Jesus to the Roman officials. It is unreasonable for me to expect certitude beyond theirs.
Instead of lusting after that certitude, instead of unrealistically exaggerating the experience of the disciples, and instead of using these false images as an excuse, perhaps I need to realize that my challenges are the same ones the disciples faced: How open am I to hearing God’s voice? When God speaks, how prepared am I to answer the call with all my heart? What am I willing to leave behind? Over what am I willing to relinquish control in order to follow the will of God?
Confronted with these questions, I fall on my knees every morning and pray. May I serve God with my life. May I be given all that I need to do God’s will, and be an effective instrument of healing and loving power. May God grant me eyes that see, ears that hear, and most of all the courage to follow.
I may never have the audacity of the disciples, dropping everything in my life in order to follow Jesus. All I can hope is that if I live this prayer and answer God in little ways every day, then if the call comes to leave it all behind, perhaps I will not only hear God’s invitation but answer it. May it be so.
Postscript: To those who have been praying through my husband’s surgery, I offer my heartfelt thanks. Rejoice with us that although the tumors are rare, the pathology report says they are benign. It appears that instead of facing our last days together, we have the prospect of many more years to come, as we continue to be carried forward by the river of God’s love and grace.
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with the Passionists. Visit Amy’s website: http://www.amyflorian.com/.