Whenever we read in Scripture stories about miraculous pregnancies like Hannah (who gave birth to Samuel) and Elizabeth there is usually a divine plan a-foot. These clues should get our attention. John, the son of Elizabeth (who herself was considered barren) is preparing the way for Jesus. He is considered the last of the Hebrew prophets.
I have often spent time daydreaming about this exact scene in today’s Gospel. Did it start for Simon who becomes Peter, Andrew, James and John as an ordinary morning? There they were doing their work and along came Jesus and completely changed their lives, forever. That day, they walked away from their lives and left everything. How exciting and even romantic the call from God can seem at first. I imagine those were halcyon days for the disciples. Simply being part of Jesus’ mission support would have been extraordinary and I’m sure it was something none of them ever imagined in their wildest dreams. The miracles they observed, no doubt the encounter with the incarnate Word, nourished their days. Except when Jesus would speak of his future and cast a shadow of concern over them—maybe that simply lasted a moment until the next miracle. Do you imagine they didn’t want this to end? Who would?
Yet, end it did. Or perhaps a better word we could use is transitioned. A time of change (and growth) came along when they least expected it.
Like Hannah, are we struggling to understand the divine plan in our lives?
The disciples discovered how the call of Jesus brought them into darkness before the light appeared again. How else could you describe the utter devastation and loss of Good Friday? What about their call? Was it over—finished? When they saw their Lord, their Teacher, suffering on the cross did they ask, “where is God in this?” Did they doubt? Or wonder if they missed the signs along the way?
What started as a normal day at the Sea of Galilee also includes this moment. I wonder if this is true of our own lives. I don’t mean in the same way but experientially and perhaps even sequentially. We embark upon what we hope to be a call and we are filled with hope and purpose for the future and life takes on a familiar pattern. Then something takes an unexpected turn and we feel lost. Maybe it’s an illness, relationship ending, an accident, depression or betrayal. Whatever it is this is NOT how life should be, we tell ourselves. We feel life has let us down or maybe wonder if we’ve failed. Can we look at these transitions in life as gifts for growth? As times of new life emerging. Of something being born in us. Can we resist the temptation to put life back together like in the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme?
In reality, we are all called to drop everything and follow Jesus, not to the cross but through the cross. Going through the cross means we are called to find that hope in the darkness and trust that the light is just beyond our horizon. We eventually find the seed of Resurrection is hidden in plain sight. New life is being called forth from the tomb. May we find peace this New Year. Amen.
Jean Bowler is a retreatant at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center in Sierra Madre, California, and a member of the Office of Mission Effectiveness Board of Holy Cross Province.