Feast your eyes on the painting of The Calling of the Apostles Peter and Andrew, by the pre-Renaissance Italian artist Duccio. Several features catch our attention. The open hand of Jesus and the invitation. The nets loaded with fish. Peter in the blue tunic who seems to be rejecting Jesus. Then, there is Andrew who appears attentive but dazed.
The golden background of the painting adds to razzle and dazzle. Clearly, the artist wants us to know something big is going on and it is of greater significance than catching fish. The title of the painting is a give-away: “The Calling of the Apostles Peter and Andrew.”
One of the more intriguing features of religious life is the notion of being “called.” A call by Jesus, is an invitation to follow him. It starts with the invitation and then leads to an interaction, a conversation of sorts with Jesus. In time, the nature of the call touches and speaks to a deep desire within us.
The call initiates a fundamental shift in our identity from a life of self-centeredness to a life that is centered on God. Such a change can be witnessed right before our eyes within a marriage ceremony. It also happens when we have children. Our hearts get bigger and bigger. We make more and more room for love.
There are people who have deep anxiety over whether or not there is life after death. As a result, they turn a deaf ear to the more immediate question, “Is there life after birth?” By responding to this question of our existence, we discover and discern that we are more than mortal, finite, human beings. We are essentially spiritual beings who are trying to figure out, literally what in the world, it means to be human. Such a conclusion leads us back to the shoreline where Jesus extends his hand and invites—not just Peter and Andrew—but now, he calls you and me, to follow him.
As we return to the shoreline, notice how small the boat appears. Yes, our world, our life, our mind, can at times seem small. When we hear the call to follow Jesus, however, we change. We drop our nets and leave the smallness behind with the superficial and the trivial. We let go of the unimportant in life. We take hold of what is important and significant and of real value. It is our life with God. Our vision expands. Jesus says clearly, such a life with God is “abundant.”
The disciples, Peter and Andrew dock their boat. The boat seems safe and sound. But now, as they climb out of their small boat, they realize it is not about the boat. Their lives are safe and sound. We observe as they step out of the boat from a former way of life to a new life by placing in Jesus their confidence (Latin, con-fidere: to have faith). Their vision expands and so too, does their hearing. They listen to Jesus as they are called and they now hear the very word of God for their life.
The painting speaks. Jesus holds out his hand. Do you hear what I hear?
Image Credit: The Calling of the Apostles Peter and Andrew, c. 1308-1311 by Duccio di Buoninsegna. National Gallery of Art, Washington. D.C. The Bridgeman Art Library.