“Jesus summoned the Twelve and gave them power and authority” (Lk 9:1).
Jesus summons us as he did the Twelve and empowers us for ministry in his name. The expression of our service is unique to each of us. Many resist entering into a deeper commitment to their faith because they are anxious or afraid that God may call us to something that we would never want to do, or that we couldn’t conceive we are capable of. Initially, there may be some trepidation if we are clear of the direction God wants us to move in, but that may come more from our hesitancy to change and move out from our comfort zone. Ultimately, God wants for us what we want for ourselves; to live a life of joy, meaning, and fulfillment.
God knows clearly what will fulfill us, give us meaning, and bring us happiness. The challenge for us is to come to know this for ourselves as well. The work of discipleship begins by accepting the invitation of God to walk with him and trust that he knows what he is doing! No matter what our age, we are never too young or too old to begin or recommit to the journey along the path of discipleship. One good practice is to reflect on our dreams and desires, bring them to God in prayer, and imagine ourselves embracing what we desire.
When I first joined the Franciscans to study for the priesthood in the early 90’s, I would imagine from time to time my ordination day, especially in our second year as we were thinking about taking temporary vows at the end of the year. When I did so, a puzzling result consistently arose. I did not imagine myself as feeling any excitement or joy. So, a year and a half into formation, I did not feel ready to take temporary vows, and decided to take a leave of absence. I had asked to take off a year, but the minimum time for a leave of absence was two years.
Though, I balked at first about the two year time frame required, seeking only one, I came to respect the wisdom of my formation director. After a year, I would have gone back. It was in my second year of leave that I realized that my vocation of service was leading me to the Sacrament of Matrimony and not Holy Orders. About eighteen months or so later I met JoAnn. As our relationship grew and we began to talk about marriage, whenever I envisioned our wedding day I felt excitement and joy! I am still excited twenty two years later, twenty three this May, that we made a commitment to each other to share our journey together!
God has a plan for each and everyone of us, he knows what will fulfill us, and he loves us more than we can ever imagine. When we ponder our dreams and desires, and as we investigate, research, explore potential outcomes, and continue to pray with God and discern each step, we will come to see that as we align ourselves with God’s will that makes all the difference. Our loving God and Father has sent Jesus to lead us and give us what we need to serve him.
There will be fits and starts, missteps and slips, doubts as well as confirmations, and desolations as well as consolations. The key through it all, is to remain faithful, to continue to trust in Jesus who called us. He will continue to accompany us along the way, he will give us the resources and strength we need, and he will send the Holy Spirit to empower and transform our lives so we can be an advocate to bring this invitation of transformation to others. We are never alone.
Photo: Following God’s discernment led me to family! Picture from Christmas about 2002