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  • Sarah Raad

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“Let us not withdraw our lips from this chalice prepared by the hand of Jesus…” (Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face).

Christ Calling the Apostles James and John (Edward Armitage)

I have been reflecting on the story of how Christ called the brothers James and John to be His apostles…


“Jesus went on a little farther. He saw James and his brother John who were sons of Zebedee. They were in a boat mending their nets. Jesus called them and they left their father Zebedee. He was in the boat with men who were working for him.” (Mark 1:19-20).


There are only a few short sentences there to describe this scene, and yet, I know – from all the events that followed – that those few moments in which James and John left their father, Zebedee, in his boat so that they could follow God, changed their lives (and the lives of their family) forever…


For when James and John followed Christ, it was not only their lives that were changed. Their Mother, Salome, stood at the Foot of the Cross, with the Queen of Heaven as the Prince of Peace was crucified! So really, when those two young men followed Christ, so too did their mother, and their father also…


I imagine that scene of the calling. You see, I know fishing is a strenuous activity! I am not talking about the sort of fishing that people do, perched on a boat with a bottle of beer, having some fun with their mates. I am talking about fishing as a livelihood. That sort of fishing is hard work!


Those men would have woken in the middle of the night when everyone else in the house (and their neighbourhood) was asleep. They would have walked, carrying their food for their meal and a robe to keep them warm, and they would have walked through the dark streets all the way to the shore of the Sea of Galilea.


I wonder was it very cold in the morning light? Perhaps it was warm and muggy? Did they feel anything differently that morning of the calling? Did they have a premonition that something big was about to happen?


I can picture the scene in the misty morning as they reached their boat. I can see those men unpacking their gear, and jumping into the water so that they could push the boat away from the shore. Perhaps the boys – James and John – told their father to get into the boat so that they could save him the effort of pushing with them…


All night they would have picked up those heavy nets and tossed them over the side of the boat. All night they would have drawn those nets back in, emptied them, and then rowed their boat to a different part of the Lake and repeated the whole exercise. And by the end of the night, their shoulders would have been tired from rowing, their arms would have been tired from casting, their backs would have been tired from bending, and their hands would have been tired from sorting the fish.


And there – right there when they were most tired, and hungry and ready for bed, right there was Christ!

I can imagine His Face… Smiling at those men with such an abundance of love, and I can imagine Him right there – right at the least convenient time – calling out to them… “Come, follow me.” Christ might have called – and all the power of the universe must have resonated in His tone…

And then – right then – just as they were helping their dad to repair the nets and pack away after a long night’s work, those two young men (who were barely much more than boys really), looked up at God. And that look was all it took. For when they saw Him, they were able to put down their nets and they LEFT…


And as I reflect on that choice of those men, who were barely more than little boys, I can see that there was nothing easy in their decision… They left their father with the work that they had been raised to do. They left their mother without seeking her permission or saying good-bye. They left their life without warning, without even saying goodbye…


Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face said, “No, the thoughts of Jesus are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways… He is offering us a chalice as bitter as our feeble nature can bear!... Let us not withdraw our lips from this chalice prepared by the hand of Jesus…”


And I think of myself – hands full of soap suds in the dishwashing sink, ears full of voices as I do my work, back hunched over as I sit at my desk – and I wonder at the obedience and the faith of those two young men… For they LEFT – right in the middle of their work...


And they did that because their Beloved called them – even before they knew His Holy Name…


And I pray for the Grace to do such a thing as that… I pray for the Grace…


For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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