When we aren’t sure where the Lord will lead, that’s the time to follow Him

In the new series on the lives of Christ and His first followers, The Chosen, there is a poignant moment when the apostle Matthew, recently called by Jesus to follow Him, tries to explain his choice to the Roman who had guarded his customs post. “Your people were Germanic. They surrendered to the Romans,” he explains. “I’m surrendering.”

What a beautiful response to the call of the Lord — to surrender to Him! To hand everything over to Him; to admit to oneself that, having met Him, nothing will — or even can — ever be the same; and so to choose, freely, to belong entirely to Him.

What is it that makes possible this level of surrender, this complete change of one’s life, this depth of conversion to which we are each called? It truly was surrender: everything was unknown to the first Apostles. Jesus did not give them a clear plan for His public ministry or advance notice of what He would ask of them after He ascended into heaven. Of course, they had Scripture’s prophecies, but many of those were made clear only when the Holy Spirit came upon them, well after their time of fulfillment. 

Jesus did not tell them what the future held or forewarn them of the depth of sacrifice to which He would lead them; He simply called them to follow Him — and they did — into the unknown! In the midst of the uncertainties of our own day, it is important for us to understand how they could make such a choice.

Recently, the Sisters listened to a talk given by Dr. Mary Healy on the feasts of Pentecost and the Visitation, which both fell on May 31 this year. Expounding upon the angel Gabriel’s Annunciation to Mary, she pointed out that when Gabriel told Mary, “The Lord is with you,” this phrase occurs again and again in the biblical texts as God’s response to human apprehension when He has asked the impossible. When God called Moses, Joshua, and Gideon — each of whom seemed ill-equipped for the enormity of his task — He promised to be with them. So, too, He promised Mary, and so, too, He promises us.

Jesus’ task for the Apostles was similarly impossible by human standards. Even to respond to His call with a willingness to follow Him required grace. Whence came the Apostles’ ability to preach and teach and heal people’s illness and free them from demons? St. Mark provides the answer in his account of Jesus’ choice of the twelve Apostles: “He appointed twelve [whom he also named apostles] that they might be with him” (Mark 3:14a). 

They were “with him”: this made possible the humanly impossible. Nothing else mattered when they possessed the gift of His presence, and they would have desired only to surrender. May we each experience with delight the joy of His presence in our lives and find that He Himself is truly enough to fill our every longing.

Sr. Mary Martha Becnel is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.