"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

Interior Knowledge, Interior Change and Interior Joy: Call of the First Disciples According to Luke

Saint Peter (c. 1610–1612) by Peter Paul Rubens, depicting Peter, vested in the pallium, and holding the Keys of Heaven.

T
he Gospel is about Luke’s version of the call of the first disciples to their vocation to become fishers of men. Let us examine three unique or distinctive elements that are found in Luke. First, Luke’s version is similar to Mark and Matthew with regard to the image of being fishers of men. But what is different in Luke’s version is the sequence of events. In Mark and Matthew Jesus is passing along the shore of the lake when he calls two pairs of disciples. In Mark the fishermen have never seen Jesus before but they follow Jesus nonetheless. Luke sets the call of the apostles a little later such that Simon Peter and his friends get an opportunity of getting to know Jesus by listening to one of his preachings before they are called or commissioned. When I was still discerning my vocation to the religious life, what came first was a getting-to-know of who God is to me personally. This does not take place overnight. Although there may be some whose calling is instantaneous but the majority among us take a much longer process because one needs to get to know God first. Let us examine the stages in Moses’s calling. First, God confronts Moses and arrests his attention at the scene of the burning bush (Ex 3:2-5). Moses is intrigued by it. As he approaches the scene he hears his name being called and responds, “Here I am” (Ex 3:4). Second, the Lord introduces himself to Moses as the God of the patriarchs and told Moses about his intent to rescue his people from Egypt and to bring them into the land he had promised to Abraham (Ex 3:6-9). Only after God has introduced Himself that he commissions Moses to go to Pharaoh to bring God’s people out of Egypt (Ex 3:10). In Luke, no one can be a disciple of Jesus without first getting know who Jesus is. This is the reason why in the Second Week of the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola the following grace that is recommended to the retreatant is “To know Jesus more intimately, so that I may love and follow him more nearly.” St Ignatius uses the same expression that St Paul used in his letter to the Colossians. That Greek word for intimate knowledge is ἐπίγνωσις (epignosis). This word occurs twice in today’s First Reading and twenty times in the New Testament. It means not simply ‘knowledge’ but ‘intimate knowledge’. St Ignatius calls it “interior knowledge” (Spiritual Exercises 104) which is far more than knowledge. This is really the sort of knowledge of God which is gained only by gazing at the Lord in prayer and contemplation. This is demonstrated by the group of fishermen who first experienced gazing at Jesus while he was on their boat teaching the people.
Second distinctive mark of Luke’s account of the calling of the first disciples is Simon Peter’s cry that he is an unworthy sinner. Just as no one can become a true disciple of Jesus without an interior knowledge of him, Luke also teaches us that no one can be a disciple of Jesus without first admitting their sinfulness. Before the regrettable events that will follow along the path of Simon Peter, for example the day when he will be called Satan by Jesus himself, and when he will deny the Lord three times, there is something very remarkable about Simon right from the start. We can almost imagine him on the boat open-mouthed gazing at the person of Jesus as he spoke before the people. Of course, he was also stunned by the miraculous catch of the fish, but even more than that, he was drawn to Jesus’s holiness. When you are before the presence of a holy person, you would feel what Simon felt—a deep sense of unworthiness because of his many sins. This is the necessary step in every call. St Catherine of Siena, one of only four women who were named doctor of the church, calls this stage as "holy hatred." I quote,
"The more a soul possesses the love of God, the more holy hatred it has for the sensory part, for its own sensuality, because the love of God naturally begets hatred for sins committed against God."
In the call of Moses, after he hears what God is asking of him, he objects (Ex 3:11). Moses says, “Who am I?” This deep sense of unworthiness is the beginning of a genuine personal conversion or an interior change of the heart to God—metanoia.

We come to the third distinctive Lukan characteristic. Astonishment at the catch of fish seized Simon Peter and his companions. "Jesus said to Simon, 'Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.' When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him" (Lk 5:10-11). Luke's Gospel has by far the most references (fifty-three times) to joy and rejoicing of all the Gospels. Mark has the least with only six times. We can say that this Lukan version of the call ends with a joyous surprise and rejoicing. Characters in Luke who receive God’s saving graces receive it as a surprise or gift because the person could not have anticipated that it would be given. This is the case with Mary in the Magnificat, the prodigal son and Simon. We may look at Simon Peter all we want with a focus on his personal incapacities, but, in a different light, Jesus saw in him a model for all of us to follow if we aspire to shepherd God's flock. This is Simon's shining example as the apostle of apostles: as someone in touch with his own flaws or incapacities but reflecting or mirroring all the more Jesus' unconditional love and mercy. Because of this Simon, with spring in his steps, took by heart his task of shepherding the whole church without being discouraged by his flaws.

God's greater glory shines in Simon Peter’s awareness and acceptance that he is a sinner. This is the surprise that Simon could never have anticipated God would give to him. Therefore, it is a joyful surprise and because of that Simon and his companions followed Jesus and left everything behind. One is able to do that only if one’s heart is filled with this joy. Our melancholy moment when we tell God how unworthy we are and hearing that familiar voice in our head that says “Why me?” must end where it must. Listen instead to God’s voice which says “Why not?” The apostle moves from melancholy to interior joy recognizing interiorly who is the source of the joy. It is not the fruit of good merits but it springs from that interior and intimate knowledge of God’s mercy always. Amen. Fr JM Manzano SJ

Comments

  1. Beautiful reflection po, Fr. Jom... Thank you very much...
    It made me see once more how God personally calls each of us... Distinctly and uniquely... And indeed, when Heart speaks to heart, you will never have means of escape... But to listen and follow... Awhile ago I was just reminded of the song "maging akin muli"...

    Gaano man tayo "kakulit, tampuhin at sumpungin" ang Diyos ay hindi titigil sa pagsuyo sa atin...

    Ingat po kayo palagi..
    God bless...

    ReplyDelete

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