The Call Starts Small
"Brethren, a wonderful and a mysterious thing is a
young man's call to the priesthood. From his earliest
years he is unconsciously being prepared, as an altar
boy perhaps, and the summons, at first vague
and general, may take years to become distinct and
unmistakable. Thus St. Andrew had long been a disciple
of the Baptist, and though months previous to
their present call, when John had pointed out the
Lamb of God to him and his brother Peter, they had
immediately followed Jesus, still it is only now that
their vocation takes shape definite and final.
Doubtless the immediate works of Jesus's hands,
the miraculous loaves and fishes, and the wine of Cana were
far superior to that produced by secondary causes;
and doubtless, too, some special grace was vouchsafed
those whom Jesus personally called and consecrated
to His service, but still it is the self-same
Christ that summons to-day young men to the selfsame
His voice is not heard, but just as through
fishing He caught the fishermen, and by a
star He led the astronomers or Magi, so through
some circumstance peculiar to each He draws him
naturally, sweetly, and yet mightily. Some event,
trivial it may be, but still deeply significant in the
light God sheds on it, will open up God's will to him,
even as the sight of Jesus preaching to the surging
throngs upon the strand must have recalled to the
fishermen God's promise to their father Abraham
that his seed should be as the grains of sand upon the
shore; must have made them reflect that the harvest
indeed was plentiful but the laborers few.
"Pray ye, therefore, the Lord of the harvest,"
says Holy Spirit, "to send laborers into His harvest"
for a call to the priesthood is exclusively God's doing. Mary
chooses the better part herself and Christ ratifies her
choice, but to His Apostles He says:
"It is I who choose you and not you who choose Me."
Neither Peter the fisherman, nor Peter the disowner can
turn to Christ unless Christ's glance first rest on him.
And blessed be God that in distributing His favors
Christ is impartial and no respecter of persons.
James and John, we know, were own cousins to the
Lord, yet Andrew and Peter's call preceded theirs.
That Christ began by choosing a pair of brothers recalls
God's choice of Moses and Aaron to liberate His
people and seems to indicate the bond of brotherhood
each neophyte enters into with his brotherpriests.
Again, neither wealth, nor influence, nor
great abilities count for aught with Christ in His
choice of subjects for His priesthood. One there
was of great possessions whom He commanded to
go, give all to the poor and coming follow Him, but
that young man's countenance fell and he sadly
turned away. More frequently the call comes to the
poor and humble and by such is it more generally and
more readily accepted. The fishermen were rough
and unlettered, as unpromising, seemingly, for any
purposes of usefulness or beauty as the unhewn log
of wood or the undressed block of marble, but out
of the wood may be fashioned a thing of beauty, and
within the marble may lie hid an angel.
Julian, the apostate, was wont to sneeringly remark
that Christchose the ignorant as more gullible, and even
among alumni of Catholic colleges you will sometimes
hear the brighter men reproach the duller ones with
having studied for the priesthood because no other
path to success lay open to them. The charge is
false and blasphemous. Not all of Christ's disciples
were rude and uncultured. Nicodemus and Gamaliel
and Nathanael were doctors of the law; Lazarus and
Joseph of Arimathea were from the Judean nobility;
Paul and Denis the Areopagite and the many Jewish
priests, who, as we read in the Acts, embraced the
faith, were all most learned men, and later history
records that the greatest minds that ever graced this
earth were priests of God. And does it not redound
to God's greater glory that men so utterly unfit as
were the fishermen should have suddenly become
masters of wisdom and of eloquence, linguists versed
in every known tongue, and stupendous wonderworkers?
That God chose such feeble means wherewith
to conquer Jewish bigotry and convert a Pagan
world served the double purpose of illustrating His
omnipotence and saving the Apostles from vanity,
for well might they say:
" Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Thy name give glory."
Aye, it served a further purpose still, viz., to
show the emptiness ofall the teachings of the
Pagan philosophies, for God chose the weak things
of the earth to overcome the strong, and the
foolish to confound the wise."
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