Sunday Reflection | Responding to Christ's Call - Saint John's Seminary
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Sunday Reflection | Responding to Christ's Call

January 20, 2024

​Caravaggio’s The Calling of St. Matthew stands as the most well-known depiction of the call todiscipleship. Christ—by a divine premotion—initiates. Matthew expresses wonderment at his being chosen. With this unexpected call, Matthew the tax collector receives the grace to leave behind all that is contrary to the Gospel. Through divine grace, he begins a new life.

With the Gospel this Sunday we hear another kind of call. Christ’s invitation to James and John, the sons of Zebedee, offers another route to following the Lord. In many respects, their call complements that of St. Matthew. Once again Christ initiates. In Christianity there are no self-starters. Every good thing in the universe begins with God. I suspect James and John were equally surprised by their invitation. The call of God always remains a gift and a mystery.

At the same time, the call of James and John presents a path to apostolic love different from that of Matthew the tax collector. The Scriptures do not tell us they stood in need of a radical conversion. Nothing suggests they were engaged in a life deep in sin. Their call does not provoke objections that they are sinners estranged from God. Instead, James and John were going about their ordinary business. They were mending their nets with their father Zebedee.

​I have often thought that a frustrated Zebedee—alone with the nets—offers an image of an essential aspect of the Christian religion. Sometimes we must forgo even good things to follow the Lord. Some persons will need to leave behind a life of sin. Others, perhaps already having heard a call to a rectified manner of life, will hear another call to leave even good things of this world in order togive themselves over to whole-hearted and free service to the Lord.

The men of St. John’s Seminary offer themselves as convinced Christians. They believe Jesus has called them to His sacred priesthood. Like Matthew they know they need to lead converted lives in conformity with the Gospel. And like James and John they willingly have exchanged good things of this world in order to be free to preach the Gospel.

Sometimes we need to leave behind the nets. We need to abandon even what is good for what God asks of us. The St. John’s Seminary community remains grateful for all those who make this mission possible. Your generosity ensures that future generations with be blessed with heralds of the New Evangelization—men who have left behind their nets to follow Jesus in serving the Church.

Rev. Ryan W. Connors

Boston College, B.A.

Pontifical Gregorian University, S.T.B.

Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, S.T.L.; S.T.D.

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