By Sr Bernadette Clair
“He saw James the son of Zeb′edee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zeb′edee in the boat with the hired servants, and followed him.” (Mk 1:18-20)
All of us have a vocation in life. A special mission has been allotted to each one of us, linked to a certain number of souls. These souls the Lord has assigned to us so that we can help them to get to Heaven. Some do this by their prayer and sacrifices, others by their preaching and teaching of the truth, others by their example. “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10)
Each of us has to discover what it is that the Lord is asking of us. As St. Teresa would say by “speaking of love with He who is love.” If we open our hearts to Christ, He will open his heart to us. The best place to pray is before the Blessed Sacrament where Jesus is truly present longing for our company. There are saints who have compared the tabernacle to a “prison”. How many tabernacles are there in the world completely abandoned and ignored by all, where Jesus remains day and night awaiting one glance from any passer-by, ready to bestow his graces upon them. When you have understood such an immense love shown to us on the cross and perpetuated in the most Holy Eucharist, there is no sacrifice too big that we can do in return because “love is repaid only by love.”
The Lord does not call everyone to leave all behind them. The Gerasene demoniac who wished to follow Jesus after having been cured by him was told instead to “go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you.” (Mk 5:19) But for those, who like the first disciples leave everything in order to “be with Him,” the calling has become more explicit. There are many who do not respond to the invitation of Jesus, who always respects our freedom, because he who is not free is unable to love. St. John Bosco reckoned that 90% of religious and priestly vocations go unanswered. This happens for several reasons. Jesus pointed out one of the reasons in the episode of the rich young man. (Mt 16: 19-30) This poor lad preferred a few pennies to the incomparable riches of Heaven. Throughout history this story has had its inverse with many young people who possessing a wisdom, not of this world, see beyond the veil of material goods and choose what really matters. One such case is Nivard, the little brother of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who was only 12 years old when St Bernard and his other 4 brothers left to join the Cistercian Monastery of Citeaux. One of his brothers said, “Nivard, you are so lucky, you are going to inherit the castle and all the estates, but Nivard replied; “You take Heaven and would leave me with the earth; it’s a bit unequal don’t you think?”
Those who do not know Jesus and recognise him as God will never have the strength to leave everything in order to follow him. The calling of Jesus is a radical calling. He asks us to let go of all our human securities. To the disciples, he does not give any explanations; he simply says, “follow me”. It is a moment in which their trust in Jesus is put to the test. In every vocation there is a moment like this. Many will prefer the world and “walk away sad” as the young rich man did before them. But there are still those who console the heart of Jesus and choose to walk along the narrow path, and follow the Lord wherever He goes, even to Calvary and the Cross. There they discover the true joy there is in serving such a Master and experience the truth of his words: “Everyone who has left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children or land for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times as much, and also inherit eternal life” (Mt 19:29).
Sr Bernadette is originally from Cork and is a member of the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother.
Thank you for this beautiful reflection.