Dear Priest, When we met, I wasn’t Catholic. I wasn’t part of the people you are called to care for. But I came to you, and you spoke with me, I suppose because “even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the Master’s table.” You did not give me the sacrament of confession. I…
The image I have of my soul during Lent is a dried out sponge, the kind that is hard and mangled, soaking up water until it is fresh and new and soft again. The season is filled with beautiful messages of God’s mercy, images of God’s arms outstretched. We hear God’s voice in the scriptures through the prophet Hosea: “I will lure her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.” At mass we sing, “Come back to me with all your heart...long have I waited for your coming home to me and living deeply our new life.”
Amongst the noise and busyness of my life, clarity eludes me. It is only when I make time and space to reunite with Jesus in prayer that the messiness of life can subside enough for me to identify which spirits lead me closer to him.
If I stop to slow down and pay attention, I do hear God's call, right in the middle of the clatter of dishes going back into the cupboards (when my husband puts them away, because, yet again, I was too tired). The mission to love in this vocation is a series of simple choices, and hearing God's call is as easy as taking a moment to breathe in awareness of the purpose in my actions. Each small choice to care for our home and my family is the choice of love. Each time I choose to set aside my own weariness to play with my baby or encourage my husband, in a small way, I mimic Christ's self-sacrifice on the cross. And when I take the time to offer myself as gift to my loved ones, I enjoy the gift of love, of life fully lived. Resurrection dawns in my heart, and the beauty of this vocation outshines its difficulties.
Sometimes we sugarcoat the reality of vocation. We want all the deep joy and the passion with none of the sacrifice. In reality, the vocation we are called to is the role that’s most apt to refine us, to shape us into to the being God envisions us to be. This means our joy and our fulfillment are both tied to sacrifice.
Still, waiting for something joyous can be painful. Imagine (or remember) the loneliness and anxiety of years spent single, waiting for someone with whom to share your life. Think of the struggle of infertility, waiting for God to turn a couple into a family, arms aching to hold your little one. Or, as new parent waiting simply to sleep again, pushing past exhaustion to find one more ounce of patience.
God was offering me a glimpse of what he feels for us when we turn away from him in moments of fear, of shame, of self-loathing. The isolation of sin is self imposed. If only we would turn to God, we would see the face of love. Like the father in the story of the prodigal son, he waits and watches for us to come to home. Our capacity to receive his mercy is contingent only on our own willingness to turn and embrace it.
For years, I’ve had this voice in my head telling me how I “should” pray. A spirituality professor of mine used to call this “shoulding all over yourself.” I’ve been telling myself I’m an imposter because I don’t pray enough, that I am no good as follower of Christ because I spend no time with him. This was a lie, and it wasn’t.