Fr. Lou DelFra | Thursday, January 28, 2010
As Jesus passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers casting their nets, and he said, “Come follow me.” And they left their nets and followed him.
As a Senior beginning my last semester of high school, a lone reality defined my existence: I was in desperate need of a date to the prom. I might also mention that I had a massive crush on Susan McSorley. But she was so far out of my league that this infatuation had no bearing on my prom issue. I also rode the end of the bench on our basketball team, which hardly improved my chances for either the prom or Susan.
Two weeks before prom, our hoops team was dismantling another team, which meant I got to play. Then, the Fates seemed to move.
I ran onto the court, took the inbounds pass, and began to dribble upcourt, a path which pleasantly led me past Susan sitting in the first row. It didn’t seem to hurt to take just the swiftest glance to see if she was watching my amazing athletic exploit of dribbling a basketball with no defender within 30 feet of me. Unfortunately, before I could find her, I lost track of the ball and carried it.
I began to pray. But before I got through “Please God, don’t …” the ref’s whistle had already blown — twice. Once for my carrying. And once for my sub to take my spot at point guard.
Jesus walked farther and saw two other brothers, James and John, and again he said, “Come follow me.” And they too followed.
The fantastic-but-true end to this story is that Susan seemed genuinely moved by my chivalrous ineptitude and talked to me for an hour after the game, during which I asked her to the prom (figuring the night couldn’t get any worse), and she accepted. That day was so unexpected, and worked out so perfectly, and my infatuation was so complete, that at the moment, I was sure this was the beginning of the rest of my life.
That is, after all, how it happens in the Gospels. People are kind of minding their own business, bumbling along with their daily, mistake-ridden lives. Until one day, completely unexpectedly, Jesus walks by, calls them out of their dreary existence, and their lives are changed forever. This is what is meant by “vocation,” right — Jesus calls one magical day, everything in our life crystallizes into a path of happiness and meaning, and we follow?
Once again he went along the Sea, and saw Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth, and he said, “Follow me.” And Matthew got up and followed him.
I suppose that if we were to ask Matthew or John or Simon Peter when their vocation — their life’s call — began, they would surely reference the day when Jesus called them by the Sea of Galilee, and their lives started falling into place. The only problem is that, at this point, they have the unfair advantage of already having the rest of their lives laid out, corroborating that initial call. For those of us stuck in the near-beginning of life, we have no such advantage. Just a series of potential beginnings — interviews, dates, internships, chance encounters, yearnings, hopes, ambitions — all of them beckoning to be fulfilled. Which ones of them are the real beginnings of our vocation?
Yes, as it turns out, Peter’s departure from his fishing boat to follow Jesus is the beginning of his vocation, but not merely because of the events of that day. Because he says “Yes” that day, Peter later finds himself in front of a crowd of 5,000 with a few loaves of bread. And Jesus asks him to help him feed the people. And, Peter, surely somewhat skeptically, says “Yes” again. And because of that “Yes,” Peter finds himself tossing in a boat on the Sea and, inebriated with the miracle of the multiplication of loaves, asks Jesus if he could walk on the water with him. Jesus — enamored with Peter’s brash, untamed faith — assents, and again Peter follows, though his doubts quickly get the better of him. Still, because of this “Yes,” Peter later finds himself being asked the question, “Who do you say that I am?” and, perhaps even to his own surprise, finds himself blurting (the first human to do so), “You are the Christ, the Son of God.” And because of this “Yes” he finds himself at the Transfiguration. And because of this “Yes” he finds himself in the courtyard outside Jesus’ trial. And because of this “No,” he finds himself fishing again on the Sea, the whole “vocation story” apparently grounded. Where, of course, Jesus faithfully meets Peter again and asks, “Do you love me?” And Peter, overwhelmed by forgiveness, says “Yes” again.
Which, in the end, makes Jesus’ first call to Peter by the Sea of Galilee “the beginning of his vocation story.”
Who knows which of the events and encounters of this semester might be “the beginnings of my vocation?” Chances are, we won’t know while they are happening. But some of the events and relationships will, over time, resonate more deeply within us than others, and invite us down a path to which we find ourselves saying “Yes” more times than not, as we recognize that our commitment to this particular person or path is slowly imbuing our lives with greater meaning and more authentic joy. By the faithfulness of our daily “Yes” to these invitations, and even more by the faithfulness of Jesus’ continued asking, the Way that Christ wishes us to follow will become ours.
This week’s Faith Point was written by Fr. Lou DelFra. Fr. Lous is the director of bible studies and chaplain to the ACE program. He can be contacted at [email protected]
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.