Feast of St. Andrew, the Apostle
The scene of today’s gospel is the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. He has just experienced his baptism by John and the temptations in the desert. His walking by the Sea of Galilee seems to be incidental and accidental. A common scene of domestic labor is suddenly interrupted by his summons. It is an odd interruption. He simply looks at Andrew and Peter and calls them to follow him. No reasons are given, no sense of preparation. Had they met before? Jesus doesn’t give them a job description for what they can expect or say what he expects. There is no thunder and lightning. Jesus sees them and takes the initiative. No bargaining. No qualifications, standards, or behavior that will be expected of either in the relationship.
The meeting and call are the beginning of a relationship, one that springs up out of astounding freedom. Any subsequent history is made possible by the sheer and absolute presence created by the call and response. This meeting and relationship is the new and unexplainable ground and foundation of all that follows. Any rational explanation cannot delve into the dynamic of what has happened. It was a foundational turning point which expresses itself in all that now happens, but which eludes all explanations and analyses. We know those deep choices which orient the direction and meaning of our lives, creative moments in which we take our lives in our hands and give them away. The freedom of another elicits our own freedom. We can respond in no other way. This is at the heart of our own dialogue and conversation with the Lord. The paucity of details and explanations in the gospel scene lead us to focus and contemplate on the heart of the matter.
The meeting of Christ with his first disciples is the beginning of his new creation which continues in His Church. His initiative and presence is the ever-present beginning, constantly calling us to follow what he is doing in our lives, personal and communal. The unconditional and free relationship we are given confounds our efforts to circumscribe and control it. Our very efforts to control are often what result in our betrayals, deceptions, and defections. The disciples and we enter into a learning process. The evangelists are not sparing in their portrayal of the disciples’ obtuseness and obduracy. It is a failure to be reformed by the word spoken, the model to be followed. Slowness to yield to the one who would make us fishers of men. We do not always heed the word revealed to us. We lack the courage to be free enough to aspire after the ultimate goal of our life with all our being, renouncing all that is not necessary to it (Raimon Panikkar, Blessed Simplicity). Without hesitation, the disciples left their nets, boats, and father: all that had given them identity and orientation. The initiative of God is always there and never withdrawn, regardless of our hesitations and fears. The new beginning of a new creation is not historically distant. We celebrate it each day in the apostolic gathering of the eucharist. Our life and soul have their beginning in God and the unconditional love revealed and given in Christ.