In today’s Gospel from St. Mark, Jesus “summoned those he wanted and they came to him.” The passage itself refers to Jesus’ summons of the “Twelve, whom he also named Apostles.” Those twelve were an incredibly diverse group, including fishermen, a tax collector and a zealot primarily interested in seeing the Roman forces overthrown. They included well-known names as well as some of whom we know nothing. They included the bumbling Peter, who never seemed to get things quite right, and Judas, who would betray Jesus.
It is good for us to remember the Twelve who were called. Today’s Gospel reminds us that God doesn’t only call people who look or act a certain way. He doesn’t only call those who look holy, those who occupy certain positions, those who will get all the answers right.
Instead, God calls each and every one of us. Whatever our our strengths and weaknesses, whatever our talents, whatever our leaning, God has some task to which we are each uniquely suited. Ours is a God who writes straight with crooked lines, as the saying goes, who looks at each of us and says: I can work with that.
Jesus summoned those he wanted “and they came to him.” God calls us and leaves it to us to decide whether to respond.
How will you answer the call?
I just read a George Anderson, S.J., column in America magazine that talked about people coming to a “late vocation,” in particular highlighting the experience of an Austrialian Jesuit who entered the priesthood later in life. The column ended with an important reminder “that God’s call can never come too late, whether to religious life – or to lay people who may also be searching to respond to a call of their own.”
This resonated strongly with me because of my own experience. I was in my early 40s when I returned to Catholicism from Buddhism. Within a couple of years after that, I discerned a call to train as a spiritual director and a retreat director, training that allows me to do the spiritual direction and retreat work I currently do. I remember how plagued with doubts I was during that period.
I had no question the call was a strong and genuine one. Nonetheless it was hard for me to get past the feeling that I was “behind” everyone else. I felt like I was starting so late and sometimes it felt like too late. I felt like I couldn’t possibly “catch-up” to the people who had started doing this a lot younger than I was. And I would start to doubt the call. Who was I to think I had any right to do this at this stage of my life? Look at all these other people who had figured it all out before I did. What was I thinking?
Part of my difficulty was in failing to appreciate at the time the fact that my years as a Buddhist were not “wasted” years in terms of the ministry I began to be trained in. I didn’t see then what I now see – that everything I had done during my years as a Buddhist was part of the process of growth that led me to the point I was then at. And that my experiences in those year contributed in major ways to my ability to minister to others.
The other part was not understanding something of what Anderson is trying to convey in his piece and that I now try to convey to the young people with whom I talk about vocation. The reality is that we don’t discern vocation once and for all. God has different plans for us at different times and that our task is to keep our ears open to hear God and be willing to say yes to whatever it is that God has in mind whenever the invitation arises.
The simple truth is that it is never is too late.