I'm greatly encouraged whenever I consider a written precedent for what we have been talking about. We find it, step by step, in the Gospel's account of the vocation of the first twelve. Let's meditate on it slowly, asking those holy witnesses of our Lord to help us follow Christ as they did.
The first Apostles, for whom I have great affection and devotion, were nothing to boast about, humanly speaking. With the exception of Matthew, who probably earned a comfortable living which he left behind at the behest of Jesus, the Apostles were mere fishermen. They lived a meagre existence, fishing all night to keep food on the table.
But social status is unimportant. They weren't educated; they weren't even very bright, if we judge from their reaction to supernatural things. Finding even the most elementary examples and comparisons beyond their reach, they would turn to the Master and ask: "Explain the parable to us."
When Jesus uses the image of the "leaven" of the Pharisees, they think that he's reproaching them for not having purchased bread.
They were poor; they were ignorant. They weren't very simple or open. But they were even ambitious. Frequently they argued over who would be the greatest when according to their understanding Christ would definitively restore the kingdom of Israel. Amid the intimacy of the last supper, during that sublime moment when Jesus is about to immolate himself for all of humanity, we find them arguing heatedly.
Faith? They had little. Jesus Christ himself points this out.
They had seen the dead raised, all kinds of sicknesses cured, bread and fish multiplied, storms calmed, devils cast out. Chosen as the head, St Peter is the only one who reacts quickly: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
But it is a faith beset by limitations, which lead Peter to reproach Jesus Christ for his desire to suffer and die for the redemption of men. And Jesus had to upbraid him: "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men."
"Peter was too human in his thinking," St John Chrysostom comments, "and therefore he reasons that those things" Christ's passion and death "were unworthy of him, something deplorable. Consequently, Jesus reprimands him and says: No, suffering is not beneath me; you only think so because your mind is limited to human thoughts."
And did these men of little faith at least stand out in their love for Christ? Undoubtedly they loved him, at least in word. At times they were swept away by enthusiasm: "Let us also go, that we may die with him."
But at the moment of truth, they all fled, except for John who truly loved with deeds. Only this adolescent, youngest of the Apostles, can be found next to the cross. The others didn't find within themselves that love as strong as death.
These were the disciples called by our Lord. Such stuff is what Christ chose. And they remain just like that until they are filled with the Holy Spirit and thus become pillars of the Church.
They are ordinary men, complete with defects and shortcomings, more eager to say than to do. Nevertheless, Jesus calls them to be fishers of men, co-redeemers, dispensers of the grace of God.