Retired health care professional reflects on how Jesus calls us to discipleship

Disciple’s Corner
By Fran Zichal

When disciples are talking to Jesus in the Gospels, an image flashes in my mind of a man dropping his fishnet and leaving his life behind to follow Jesus. This takes courage and trust. They seem to be special, holy men. It has taken years as a Catholic to understand that all of us, male and female, sinner and saint, are called to be disciples of Jesus. Jesus is present in our daily relationships waiting for us to answer his call.

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There is a wonderful Renaissance painting by Caravaggio hanging in a small chapel near the Vatican in Rome. Many newly elected popes sneak away into this chapel to reflect on the painting “The Calling of St. Matthew.” Google it to see and feel ­Jesus’ powerful calling. Do you know about Matthew, the tax collector? Tax collectors are the lowest of the low in Jesus’ time. They make lots of money charging people taxes, but does that necessarily bring them fulfillment, joy or happiness?

When Jesus arrives in Matthew’s office, a dirty dingy tavern, Matthew is concentrating on his money along with all his workers. Suddenly Jesus points a finger at him. It is a powerful call to “follow him.” At first, Matthew is thinking, “who, me?” This is probably how most of us would respond. Matthew holds his money close to him, but something changes his mind. You can see a transformation, subtle, not dramatic. He chooses to follow Jesus. Jesus points his finger at all of us. How do we react? Do we cling to our money, power, sexual antics, addictions? Are we more comfortable with them?

There are times every day when Jesus is calling us. We have to be open to his call. Sometimes we get nudges for days, wondering what is tugging at us. Jesus patiently waits for us. We just do not recognize his call. Looking back on my journey, I see how Jesus was calling me to follow Him. The religious brothers taught me a special love for Scripture in middle school that continues today. I spent 50 years in hospitals starting out as an aide and ending up as CEO with a degree in nursing. There were many occasions when my hands and heart relieved pain, eased mental anguish and calmed spiritual fears. It was not until I retired and reflected on my career that I realized that Jesus was speaking to me — asking me to follow him. The IMPACT classes and my pastor, Father John Haugen, have taught me the path to discipleship continues every day.

Pray and Reflect

Sit with “The Calling of St. Matthew” painting and reflect on how you would answer Jesus’ call to “follow me.”

Think of your past week: were you open to Jesus nudging at you? Why or why not?

How can I develop a vibrant, spiritually growing relationship with Jesus?

Henri Nouwen, author of “Life of the Beloved,” and Sherry Weddell, author of “Forming Intentional Disciples,” compliment Edward Sri’s book, “Into His Likeness.” All three help us be transformed as a disciple of Christ.

Fran Zichal is from St. Joseph Parish, part of Emmaus Pastorate, in Elkader. She was an employee of Mercy Medical Center in Dubuque in the position of CEO of Central Community Hospital, Elkader from 1999 to 2016. Upon retirement in January 2017, she signed up for the IMPACT program.

The Disciple’s Corner is sponsored by the Archdiocese of Dubuque’s Office of Faith Formation and Education and is funded through the Archdiocesan Educational Development Board. It is designed to help catechists, teachers, parents, grandparents, guardians and other adults grow in their appreciation of their role as disciples of Jesus Christ.

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