Call to friendship

Daily Reading for November 30 • St. Andrew the Apostle

One common element in the gospel narratives is the story of Jesus’ call of the disciples. By the sea of Galilee he meets and calls brothers Simon Peter and Andrew, fishermen who are invited to ply their skills in new ways and new “waters.” On one level it might seem to us that Jesus is organizing a campaign or setting up shop. Perhaps this is because we view the stories through what is familiar in our day; we read backward through the lens of institutional and church history and see in these early associations the pattern of our own administrative structures. But is it not curious that when Jesus calls these early companions, he is terribly hazy about job descriptions and mission statements?

Clearly, the pattern here is somewhat different. The relationship between Jesus and his disciples emerges as more that of friends than of professional staff. There is no evidence of how he comes to choose the particular individuals he chooses. No rationale is offered and no apparent design for their deployment emerges. He is not hiring workers or associates, but calling friends.

Jesus’ selection of his own circle of companions may well have been something more than a conscious organizational plan for the implementation of a well-planned ministry. It may have been his first opportunity to choose friends freely. Like Jesus, when we are free from the familial and the familiar and offered the opportunity of new circumstances, we find and embrace those friends who are of our own choosing. They are uniquely ours, and in that uniqueness lies much of their preciousness. In these relationships we often share everything. Most importantly, through them we build sufficient confidence in others to express our ideas openly. . . .

What we observe in Jesus’ pilgrimage of vocational fulfillment is that he experienced a series of radical changes and reorientations. Each one was essential to his formation as a person, and each was a response to vocational urging. That he found himself knee-deep in the Jordan being baptized by John, or living in Galilee on the opposing bank of the Jordan from Nazareth, or in the midst of strange but chosen companions, or broadening his notion of family to include those who were not tied to him by blood or nationality, was not by whimsy or will. He was where he was and what he was in response to his discernment of God’s will for him, God’s call to him.

From Crossing the Jordan: Meditations on Vocation by Sam Portaro (Cowley, 1999).

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