Today’s Gospel passage for the Feast of St Andrew begins;
‘As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew; they were making a cast in the lake, for they were fishermen.’
Jesus calls two men, two men who shared the same upbringing and then the same trade. They both respond to something in Jesus, they both make a decision to leave behind the familiar for the unknown.
It’s fairly common in monasteries and communities of religious to separate siblings, to find a place where each can be themselves. The wisdom of this seems to be that the presence of a sibling may make adjustment to monastic life more difficult. Yet Simon Peter and Andrew had to rub along together. I can’t help but wonder just how this worked out. Did Andrew live in the shadow of Simon Peter’s rather impetuous way? Or did Andrew quietly support him?
Today’s Gospel passage, Mark 13:24-32, on first sight, presents us with something of a challenge. Apocalyptic language is a little alien to many of us and something to which we probably don’t pay a great deal of attention, unless it is forced upon us. As a student in the 80s I often passed a man at Oxford Circus wearing a sandwich board proclaiming, ‘The End is Nigh’. Whilst he was easily dismissed as an eccentric, just one of many in central London, something niggled me. What if he is right? Some biblical commentators suggest that Mark presents Jesus as countering the apocalyptic culture of his day. Whilst he quotes the standard apocalyptic images, Jesus offers his hearers a new perspective on the ‘end times’.
Perhaps the second section of the Gospel passage, where Jesus introduces imagery that is both more subtle and potentially more accessible for us, can be of help. Jesus speaks of a tree in bud, a fig tree. The fig tree bears fruit when the time is right. It isn’t forced to bear fruit out of season. So too with Christ’s second coming, this will happen when the time is right. We cannnot hasten its coming. All we can do is live in readiness, open and alert to Christ among us in our daily lives, believing that ‘he is near, at the very gates.’
Image 1 Hubble Space Images
Image 2 © Turvey Abbey
Last week I attended a conference run by the National Office for Vocation. You might expect it to be vocations rather than vocation and therein lies the clue to the content of the day. The speakers highlighted the need for developing a ‘culture of vocation.’
Each one of us is called to respond to our baptismal promises. How consciously we do this is in some part down to how open we are to God’s invitation. God invites us to consecrated life, priesthood, single life, the permanent diaconate and married life. Each path is equal in God’s sight.
I met two people at the conference who were significant in my own journey of discernment. One was aware of the part she played, the other wasn’t. On the train journey home I thought about how I came to the decision to try monastic life. I realised that I followed my heart and only later allowed my head to shape my decision.
How do you make decisions?