by Sr. Emily Beata Marsh, FSP
The first in a series of reflections on Sacred Scripture (lectio divina) in discerning one's vocation.
We begin with Mark 1:14-20: Are we willing—truly willing—to give the center of our hearts and our lives to Jesus?
“Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the Gospel of God” (Mark 1:14).
I invite you to open your Bible to the Gospel of Mark. In the first chapter, we read the account of Jesus calling the first disciples. This passage, first of all, invites us to contemplate the characteristics of Jesus' way of calling. When Jesus comes to Galilee, he is performing the mission given him by the Father. He is “proclaiming the gospel of God.” His disciples see him in action, so to speak! He is calling his disciples to be with him in this mission.
Jesus took Peter and Andrew, James and John as they were. These men were fishermen, and Jesus reached out to them as fishermen. He explained his mission in terms they would understand: “I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus loved them as they were, and he called them as they were.
This passage invites us to contemplate the attitudes of a disciple. We do not know how long the first disciples knew Jesus before he called them to follow him. Perhaps they experienced a gradual admiration for Jesus, over many months, or maybe this was the first time they had seen him. Either way, they were open to the way that Jesus drew them to himself.
Peter, Andrew, James, and John had something else in common: when Jesus called them, they left what was most important to them in order to follow him. They “abandoned their nets” and “left their father.” By doing this, they proclaimed the centrality of God and his call in their lives. They were willing to sacrifice because a great love had touched them. It’s not that they didn’t still love their families, their friends, and their work—but now that they had met Jesus, they loved everyone and everything else in relation to him.
How My Call Unfolded
When I look back on my own call, I can see how Jesus reached out in much the same way with me as he did with the first disciples.
My call began to unfold when I was in high school. As it did, I felt drawn to spending more time in prayer, especially before the Blessed Sacrament. I felt drawn to Jesus’ love. Each encounter with his love revealed something new to me: that I don’t have to earn his love, that he loves me as I am, that his love is integral to who I am. The immediacy that characterized the first disciples’ call also came into play in my own relationship with Jesus. The more I experienced his love, the more urgently I felt I must respond to him with my whole life.
A Call to the Next Level
How can this passage enter our lives? Jesus loved and related to the first disciples as they were, and he loves and relates to us in the same way. He does not expect us to become “worthy” before he calls us. Rather, he loves us into our call, and he calls us into love. As we seek to respond to Jesus, the most important thing we can do is accept and receive his love in our lives.
Just like the first disciples who saw Jesus in action, performing his mission among the people, in the same way we also have the opportunity to see Jesus in action in our own lives. Every time we experience kindness from another person, or feel invited to show kindness to another, the mission of Jesus takes action in our lives.
Looking at the first disciples’ response invites us to be aware of and attentive to our own encounters with Jesus. He is constantly breaking into our lives—if only we knew how constantly! But we can pray to recognize him a little more every day. As we allow ourselves to be drawn to Jesus, we will be drawn into his dream for our lives.
Finally, this reading calls us to the next level. Are we willing—truly willing—to give the center of our hearts and our lives to Jesus? Is there something we might need to leave, the way that Peter and Andrew left their nets? When Jesus is the center of our hearts, then everything else in our lives falls into its proper place.
Every day, I pray in thanksgiving for the love that calls me to be my true self, and I ask Jesus, the Master, Teacher, and Shepherd, to lead and guide all of us on his way.
A Discerner's Prayer
Jesus Master, thank you for your love, and thank you for your call. I want to see you breaking into my life. I want to give you my whole heart, to respond to Love with love. Like the first disciples, may I “immediately” leave what holds me back and follow you. Amen.
Sr. Emily Beata Marsh, FSP, is a Daughter of St. Paul who professed her first vows in 2012. She is now studying in Rome in preparation for her perpetual profession of vows.