Grace: An intimate knowledge of our Lord, Who has called me, that I might love Him more and follow Him more closely.
Text for Prayer: John 1: 31-51
Reflection: The Apostles who were called to follow Jesus are well described by the motto of Pope Francis: miserando atque eligendo (“miserable yet chosen”). None of the Apostles are particularly well-suited to the task prior to Jesus calling them. For that matter, they are not particularly well-suited to the task even after Jesus calls them. On one occasion in Mark’s gospel, they fail to drive out a demon, requiring Jesus to do so for them. When they are uncertain as to why they failed, Jesus responds that “this kind can only be driven out through prayer” (9:29). Evidently, the Apostles did not realize that spiritual warfare required communion with God. Of course, as time goes on we see multiple misunderstandings (one of which caused Jesus to call Simon “Satan” moments after naming him “Peter”) and the Apostles desert Jesus during the Passion. Throughout Jesus’ life, the Apostles have no difficulty living up to the first part of Francis’ motto. Mercifully, the story goes on.
Jesus is persistent in His dealings with the Apostles. Were He a savvy businessman, Jesus would likely have shown the Apostles the door after failing to live up to the corporate mission statement. But these are the people whom He has chosen, and He will not abandon them—even if they do not always return the favor. He constantly forms them, constantly teaches them, constantly strives to help them live up to the glory of their vocation as His followers.
Eventually, Jesus’ persistence begins to show. The Apostles gain authority over demons. Peter heals a cripple. St. Paul, formerly one who meted out death to so many Christians, raises Eutychus from the dead. Whereas all save John ran from Jesus’ own Crucifixion, all save John ended up dying martyr’s deaths out of love for Jesus. The Apostles may be miserable, but they are also chosen, and Jesus will stay by them to ensure that they can live as ones who truly are chosen.
This can give us hope as we reflect on our own callings. As we reflected upon our sins, we saw quite clearly the ways in which we, like the Apostles, were “miserable.” On a regular basis, we choose to carry out actions which show our willingness to abandon the Lord. But ever since the Call of the King, we have reflected on the fact that we are also chosen. Paradoxically, the one does not preclude the other. Indeed, our miserable state seems to make Jesus all the more determined to choose us and then make us into individuals worthy of that choice.
In light of this, the very fact of our vocations give us hope. Whether we are called to live life married, single, or in religious life, the Lord will stay with us and build us into a disciples who can live that calling out. If Jesus can so fully transform the Apostles, the fundamental question we should ask ourselves is not what we are capable of right now, but what we are being called to by Jesus, and what He can make us capable of while we walk with Him.
Questions: In what ways is my past like those of the Apostles? In what ways is Jesus calling me? How is Jesus offering to strengthen me to live out my calling?