The Gospel says that when Jesus saw James and John at the seashore, He called them. He did the same to Peter and Andrew, saying: Follow Me. This Sunday, on the Byzantine liturgical calendar, is that of the calling of the first disciples of Christ. As we begin with the cycle of Matthew in the Sunday gospels, we are looking at the beginning of the Christian mystery. Being a Christian begins with being called. But just what does it mean to be called, and what is the content of the calling, and what should be our response?
When God acts outside of Himself, He calls. He called creation into being simply by saying: “Let there be…” He called Abraham to be the father of the chosen people, called Moses to give them his law, called the prophets to be his spokesmen. God takes the initiative: He loves us first, He sends out his word to do his will, He speaks and expects a response. So when God sent his eternal Word made flesh into the world, Jesus began to carry out the Father’s will by calling people: to follow Him, to learn the revelation He was sent to give, and eventually to call the rest of humanity to salvation through Christ. Peter and the other disciples proved themselves worthy of his calling by responding immediately, leaving even their very livelihoods at the simple invitation of Jesus. “Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.” Jesus could then make good on his promise to make them fishers of men.
We may understand that Christians are called by God to eternal life through Christ, but what is the content of this calling? To what are we all called? Here I don’t mean particular vocations within the Church, but that to which every Christian is called, that which makes us worthy of the name. There are several indications in Scripture.
Scripture also says we are called to be children of God, called to peace, to hope, and to glory. St Peter says that we are called to suffer as a way of following in the footsteps of Christ, and that we are called to bless, even when we are cursed or mistreated. In fact, we can say that anything that Scripture exhorts us to do (or not to do) is a calling, an expression of part of the fullness of what it means to have been called out of the darkness of sin into the marvelous light of grace and virtue and salvation.
To be among those who respond to the call of Christ is to be open to the grace of the Holy Spirit. We know from the Pentecost account in Acts that it was those who were faithful followers of Christ who received the Holy Spirit, and they were thus all the more able to live out their response to God’s call in holiness and fearless witness to the truth.
We learn from St Cyril of
So let us reflect on what it means to be called by God, called to be saints, to hope, to suffer, and to bless, to choose spiritual growth over superficial happiness, and to do all that constitutes the Christian vocation. Jesus is approaching us now, saying, Follow Me. Are we willing to rise immediately and go after Him? Ask the Holy Spirit to enable you to see what you haven’t seen before, see the truth of God more clearly, experience his love more profoundly. Then there will be no hesitation. You will follow wholeheartedly, rejoicing that you are called to belong to Jesus Christ.