New beginnings

Coming up again to this feast of St Andrew, how was it that Andrew could drop everything, just like that, and with his brother Peter follow after Jesus, James and John not far behind? How did they know Jesus was worthy of following?

What is in the background of this cut and dried gospel account is not only four thousand years and more of God’s longing for Israel, but God’s work in the hearts of Andrew and the others, preparing the ground of their hearts for the Word to grow up among them. It’s all this preparation that makes the moment where the Word of God speaks bodily and these brothers respond.

What we can see about any particular situation depends on what we are looking for; what we apprehend about it depends on what we are expecting. If we expect something romantically exotic about the monastic life, we will not be able to see when Jesus, our vocation, comes to us in the plain clothes of ordinary life. And if we expect someone, or a community of someones, to reach in from the outside, give us a life and make us whole, we will not be able to hear when the Word of God speaks to us from inside our own hearts, and reveals himself in what comes from our own lips.

The word is near you, in your heart and on your lips, so that you may obey it. “Love speaks everywhere,” St Bernard says. Love speaks everywhere, in the chapel, in the cell, in the yard, in the basement, in the kitchen, in the car. Jesus offers us himself every time and every where, saying to us ‘Follow me.’ For every one of us, the vows of stability and conversion of life and obedience implicit in our baptismal promises, and made explicit by some of us in monastic vows—these have prepared us to hear. Our baptism and our vows are there to challenge our expectations and open our eyes so that we can be empty enough of ourselves, light enough on our feet to be able to see Jesus and move in any direction he may bid us.

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