“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 exploring or entering into a deeper commitment to their faith because they are anxious or afraid that God may call them to something that they would never want to do, or that they couldn’t conceive they were capable of. Initially, there may be some trepidation even when 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 fulfillment, joy, and meaning.
God knows what and with whom we will experience fulfillment. 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 and where he is leading! 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 ’90s, I would imagine from time to time my ordination day, especially in our second year as we were thinking about taking temporary vows. When I did so, a puzzling result consistently arose. I did not imagine feeling any excitement or joy. So, a year and a half into formation, I 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.
Though I balked at first about the two-year time frame required, I came to respect the wisdom of my formation director. It was in my second year away, that I realized that my vocational path was leading me to the Sacrament of Matrimony and not Holy Orders. About eighteen months after I made that decision 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. Each year together has been better than the one before. Though JoAnn left this life far too soon, knowing what I know now after twenty-three years of marriage, I would ask her to marry me all over again!
God has a plan for each and every one 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 and discern each step, we will come to see that as we align ourselves with God’s will that makes all the difference. We are not alone in this process and we have a God who can see the full picture, where we see only a small part.
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. We need to remember that this process is not just for ourselves alone. We are transformed by the gift of God’s love to go out and share the invitation we said yes to with others.
Photo: Following God’s discernment led me to JoAnn, family, and puppies! Picture from Christmas about 2002.