Some things you just know. You don’t need someone to tell you, you just know it. You feel it in your gut. Like when you just know that you shouldn’t have one more drink before you get behind the wheel. Or you just know that you need to keep your mouth shut in the big meeting. Or when you realize you just walked out of the store and accidentally never paid for one of the things in your cart; you just know the right thing to do. You don’t need a bartender or a career coach or a priest or even a parent there telling you what the right thing to do is. You just know it. The spark of life, the ember of the Holy Spirit that is within everyone at the moment of their creation, whether the Pope or a militant atheist, whispers to you, and you just know.
So when Saint Joseph had a dream with an angel speaking to him, he knew it wasn’t just a dream; he just knew. When Mary visited Elizabeth, the second Elizabeth heard Mary’s voice, John the Baptist leapt in her womb because he just knew that he was in the presence of God incarnate. Simeon and Anna in the temple just knew that infant Jesus was the salvation they had been waiting for. And the disciples too, just knew. All Jesus had to do was call their name, and they left their boats, their parents, and all of their lives behind to go with Jesus and become fishers of men.
Unlike everyone else, however, the disciples spent three years with Jesus. And you can’t spend three years with someone of your own free will and not become friends with them. Shared hardships create the strongest of friendships after all, and walking hundreds of miles through the deserts of Israel, they certainly shared a hardship or twenty. Sure, they did things that Jesus requested, but that doesn’t mean that the servants didn’t become friends with their master. We know that Jesus saw them as friends also. When he sat down at the Last Supper to celebrate Passover, Jesus said, “With longing have I desired to eat this Passover with you.” If you’re not friends with someone, do you break bread with them “with longing”? Jesus didn’t just call them friends, he loved them. Indeed, Jesus tells them, “No one has a greater love than this: that he lay down his life for his friends. I will no longer call you servants, for the servant does not know what his Lord is doing. But I have called you friends, because everything whatsoever that I have heard from my Father, I have made known to you. You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you. And I have appointed you, so that you may go forth and bear fruit, and so that your fruit may last. Then whatever you have asked of the Father in my name, he shall give to you.”
And how much did the disciples love Jesus? At the Mount of Olives, Jesus broke the bad news to them: “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’” We all know of Peter’s bravado at that moment, and of his ultimate failure. But think of the rest. They indeed scattered. At the moment Jesus needed friends the most, with the exception of John, the rest had run and were in hiding. He told them, “you will be scattered, each one to his own home, and I will be left alone. Yet I am not alone, because my Father is with me.” They couldn’t even stay awake with Jesus to pray in the few hours before his betrayal. Some friends.
Yet despite this, Jesus still returned to them and the eleven disciples became eleven apostles. They were no longer mere followers: they were given a mission to go forth and spread the good news. Jesus chose them because He just knew that they were the right people. He just knew that despite free will, that they would choose to not just follow Him, but to build His Church upon the rock of Peter. He just knew that they would be loyal and trustworthy friends, despite their failings. He just knew because the Holy Spirit told him so.
Can Jesus depend on us? Can He count us as loyal apostles? When He calls our names, will we drop our nets, leap out of our boats, and follow Him to become fishers of men? When asked to stand and be counted as a follower of Christ, will we stand… or will we scatter? Will we stay awake and pray with the Lord for just one hour? We all know what kind of friend Jesus is to each of us. Ask yourself: What kind of friend are you to Jesus? Could you be a better friend? The answer to that question, you just know.