Is this his first move? Is it he who took in his hands the threads of our lives and led us through the mysterious pathways of a call, whose necessary developments we do not glimpse, to consecrate ourselves to God in this specific form of life?
For Camillus there was no doubt. The first move was by God and it had to be that way because no consideration of a human kind was able to direct that young man towards an institute that involved people to the point of heroism: ‘most contrary to all the senses of man to go towards infected and sick places’ (Cicatelli 103). But such is also the case for Catholic theology which defines mission in terms of vocation. In this word the reference is evident to the mystery whose nature escapes us, but which is such, however, as to involve man to the point of changing his history radically with a view to a work that has to be engaged in. And it is this above all else for Biblical theology both of the Old and the New Testament.
‘And he chose twelve who would be with him and also to send them out to preach and so that they would have the power to cast out demons’, we are told by Mark (3:14). This verse summarises: it places the call in an immediate relationship with the ecclesial tasks that derived from it.
The terminology that John employs in the account of the first calls is interesting (Jn 1:35ss): ‘Where do you live, Rabbi?…“Come and see”, he answered…So they went with him and saw where he lived, and spent the rest of that day with him’ (Jn 1:37-38).
The disciples asked him where he lived, that is to say: what is your life, your way of existing, the mystery of your person? And Jesus invited them to experience all of that: ‘come and see’. Here the verb ‘to see’ has a content that is very rich: to realise, to learn personally, to learn about being together, living in the same house, taking part in peregrinations, to the point of reaching that identification with him which made St. Paul say: ‘it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me (Gal 2:20).
Discipleship already existed in the cultural and religious structures of Israel, but it was to learn the law, to memorise and interpret Holy Scripture. Here the situation is different: it is not a matter of learning but of ‘acting’, of ‘being’, with him, of establishing a personal and permanent relationship.
The moments of the call which for today’s religious are distributed down the years are substantially present in the account provided by John: accepting the invitation (‘if a man inspired by God’), engaging in verifying (‘come and see’) and then ‘being’ with him (‘living only for the Crucified Jesus’) says the Formula: a communion of life and destiny, a true communion that is irrevocable (‘know that he has to be dead to all the things of the world’) and then bearing witness (‘he gives himself to pleasing the will of God’) ‘in service to the sick poor’.
It is clear that this is not only a matter of being under the same roof but, rather, also of experiencing his person even before the doctrine that he proclaims: he is the lineage in which we are permanently placed, like modest and yet robust tendrils (Jn 15:1ss). ‘Living with God’, ‘dwelling in his house’, thus becomes allowing oneself to be chosen by him, without mental reservations and without free trade areas.