Thursday, June 30, 2016

One Call to Serve Comes to an End to Prepare for Another - Part II

In the Spring 2016 issue of Human Development, Msgr. John Zenz (and my Spiritual Director) writes in regard to God’ providence and vocation, “We also reach a point of what St. Ignatius of Loyola would call ‘thinking with the Church’ wherein we recognize the presence of God working in the Church at every level and accept as God’s providential ‘will’ even things that may cause us confusion or disappointment.” (pg. 12)

So it is that I write that as of June 22, I am no longer in Formation. After prayerful consideration and discernment by the Formation team, it was felt that my ministry to the Church is something other than the Permanent Diaconate.

In my post of July 14, three years ago as I was entering Formation I wrote about how one call to serve was coming to an end in preparation for another call to serve. Well, after all this time, there is, in the beauty and mystery of God’s plan, a reversal. I have no doubt that this faith journey these past several years has been and is part of God’s plan. One day, through the grace of God, I may even understand the how, where, and why of it all.

But even if I don’t, one thing I do know is, this part of my life was enriched through the friendships, the brotherhood, forged with a group of men with whom I was going through formation, my fellow Candidates and the deacons who make up the Formation team. I am a better man, with a stronger relationship with our Lord, today because of each and every one of them. I thank them from the bottom of my heart and the depths of my soul.

Come August at the time of the annual Formation retreat, as well as the second Saturdays of the month thereafter, I will be thinking of these men and their wives, praying for them as they continue their journeys.

While there is so much I could reference in regard to this decision and my state of mind (such as the attitude of Joseph from the Gen 45:4-5), I’ll close this entry with the refrain from Brandon Heath’s song Wait and See:

There is hope for me yet
Because God won't forget
All the plans he's made for me
I have to wait and see
He's not finished with me yet

In the peace of Christ,

Saturday, June 11, 2016

A Reflection - John 10:27-30

“No one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” It is a portion of the Gospel that kept popping up in my head. While I tried to reflect on the entire three verses, I was drawn to this part time and time again.

Jesus’ full statement was in response to being challenged by Jewish authorities. They were looking for a definitive statement from Jesus that he was the Messiah, though not necessarily a divine Messiah, but a king that would return Israel to greatness, a second King David. What they got was an answer that is filled with references to Jesus’ divinity. From references of the voice – the Word of God incarnate, to the gift of eternal life, and most clearly, “I and the Father are one.” And just before this portion of the dialog with the authorities, Jesus states that he is the good shepherd. His use of “good” brought to mind Mark 10:18. After asking a rich man why he called Jesus good, Jesus says, “No one is good but God alone.” Even the two sentences that kept popping out imply equality between Jesus and God, as no one can snatch the sheep from Jesus’ hand or God’s hand.

But it wasn’t the aspect of equality between Jesus and God in this portion of the Gospel that intrigued me. It was the message of protection that kept coming to mind. “No one shall snatch them out of my hand.” As I thought about this, I recalled what was said early in formation, that Satan was going to try and stop us from responding positively to this calling, this vocation. I remember the session on discernment and talk of the evil spirits that were going to do their best to dissuade us from formation. I remember talking about these forces are going to constantly be trying to turn us from this calling, and could intensify in the period just before ordination. Sadly, while I remember talking about the challenges that we were going to face, I don’t remember if this verse was referenced to give us hope, to give us strength. Regardless, I will remember these words in the days and weeks and months and years ahead. Whether it is in response to challenges from evil spirits during formation or life in general, these words give me hope.

And just as Jesus told the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, that he is the fulfillment of the Psalms, we see this protective nature in Psalm 23, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Exactly what we would expect from our Good Shepherd.