As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. —from Matthew 4:12-23
These stories in the gospels of Jesus’ entry into public ministry are impressive and, I suspect, slightly off-putting for us. Peter and Andrew appear to rise without hesitation to answer the summons of Jesus. A moment later, James and John seem to leave their father Zebedee back in the boat to immediately become followers of Jesus. I imagine most of us have a hard time imagining being able to leave everything we know to follow Jesus in such an immediate way.
But what if the call is always coming, and we are just hearing about those who answered that day? Maybe there was a whole string of folks along the shore who looked the other way, covered their ears, decided today was not the day they were prepared. What if Jesus is always calling, and we answer at the point we are ready to be summoned?
Calling is of course ultimately about response. But before we can shift the orientation of our lives to answer, we must imagine that we are being called. We have to cultivate a way of hearing and seeing that imagines God has a central claim on all the moments in our everyday lives. Our baptismal vows assert and remind us that we part of a community that shares a calling. But that knowledge, according to the psalmist, may be “too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.” (Psalm 139:6).
How might we experience the world differently if we knew ourselves deeply worthy of God’s attention and response? Are there any barriers that prevent us from hearing Jesus asking us to follow and fish for people? Do we imagine we are too small to make a real contribution? Is the size of the task too much? Are we not able to be as dramatic in our response as those early disciples?
Jesus has called each one of us by virtue of our baptism, simply because we are beloved children of God. The more we know ourselves to be loved, the more we can seek to share that with others. Your fishing ground can be as close as your neighborhood or the local grocery store. Our calling is there, and our response does not always have to be dramatic or immediate. It just needs to be faithful and grounded in the sure knowledge that we have already been summoned in love.