All four of the Gospels speak of the calling of the apostles in their opening chapters. However, the Gospel of St. John offer us an insight that is lost in the synoptic Gospels; namely, the fact that the men who eventually became the Twelve actually sought out Jesus rather than waiting for Jesus to call them. The stories are not mutually exclusive. It is obvious in the text of the synoptic Gospels that the first apostles already knew Jesus before he called them away from their fishing nets. The Gospel of St. John shows us that they learned about Jesus from each other as his fame began to spread. In today's passage, for instance, Andrew introduces his brother Simon to Jesus. St. John also records that Jesus immediately calls Simon by a new name, Peter.
Theologically speaking, St. John's Gospel tends to pick up the story line where the synoptic Gospels leave off. The Christian community which gave birth to this Gospel had far more time to reflect on the mystery of Jesus' life, ministry, passion, death and resurrection before ink was put to parchment. One of the telling differences is that in the synoptic Gospels, Jesus usually waits for a request before he heals or cures. In St. John's Gospel, Jesus initiates the action without waiting for such a request. The same can be said in the instance of the call of the disciples. They initiate the action without waiting for Jesus to call them. Obviously, they were open to a change in the path their lives were taking. They were hungering for something more than their former relationship with God was providing. Jesus answers that hunger.
Today's Memorial of St. Elizabeth Seton reminds us of a woman in our American history who was also looking for a different path. St. Elizabeth was a convert to Catholicism. Her conversion to the true faith came after she had been widowed. When she converted, she also looked for a new way of life which led to the foundation of the Sisters of Charity. The path which she had been walking, which included marriage and motherhood, gave way to a new kind of relationship which enabled her to continue in her service to the poor and uneducated of her native New York. She, like the apostles before her, was led by her hunger for something new and stronger by way of a relationship to God.
Hunger for God is not uncommon. Satisfying that hunger can lead us to new and wonderful expressions of faith and action. As we mark this memorial today, we would do well to examine our own relationship with God and His Son Jesus. One never knows where such effort will lead us.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator