Nicodemus went under cover of darkness. The Samaritan woman left her jar at the well to go back and tell the others. With mud in his eyes, the man born blind went to the pool of Siloam to wash. And Lazarus came back to life.
In Year A of our liturgical rhythm, these are the characters that accompany us through the season of Lent. Their encounters with Jesus are a foretaste of what is to come on Easter Day. And these encounters would surely challenge their understanding of life, of themselves and of God. Questions like, who am I now, where am I going, what is my purpose, must have bubbled to the surface in these moments of change. We too ask these questions when striving to understand our place, our call, our vocation in this life.
We have four children in university and one in Grade 10. The number of occupants in our home expands and contracts throughout the year. At Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and during summer vacation, the number of pairs of shoes at the front door grows, as does the grocery bill. During the school term, it’s nice and quiet. We enjoy both times of plenty and times of calm. Our children are not only attending to scholastics, expanding their horizons, learning to live away from home – they are also striving to discover their own place, purpose and vocations.
When I was their age, I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to do when I grew up. I had an inkling in about Grade 7 that priesthood might be for me, but that’s not something you talk about with your friends at that age. I kept it close. In Grade 12, we filled out a career aptitude test that would make recommendations for occupations to pursue. My classmates received recommendations to be lawyers, doctors, nuclear physicists, politicians and teachers. Me, I was told to consider being a bricklayer or a tugboat captain. What? That didn’t make much sense to me. Not to say that there is something wrong with being a bricklayer or a tugboat captain – these are worthy occupations. It’s just that to that point in my life I had spent no time in construction and barely a moment in a boat.
I went off to university to study biology because it was my highest mark in high school. I loved the sciences and imagined that by doing more in-depth education, something would stick. By third year, I knew that biology and chemistry, while interesting to me, were not my passions. All my friends were falling in love with their courses and finding their way, and I was losing mine. I tried environmental studies, economics, political science and even French history.
The turning point came through listening. I listened to friends and family who knew me well. I listened to my heart, my hunger, and I listened for God. By third year of my undergrad, I was praying again, a practice that I had left behind when I had left home. On a very cold winter night, I looked out my bedroom window upon the snowy and windswept field that reflected the state of my soul, and I prayed… Loving God, I have no idea what I am supposed to do, please, please, please…help me. That was a turning point for me. Through a series of serendipitous moments, I found myself going back to the idea of ordained ministry. This is the calling that makes my heart sing.
When I think about it now, that high school aptitude test did get it right. I spend much of my ministry tugging, pulling and guiding the Church that I serve to find secure passage, open water and safe harbour, like a tugboat captain. Laying down visions and dreams, mixing the mortar with prayer and faith to bind, to strengthen and build the Kingdom of God day after day after day, like a bricklayer, fills me with hope.
Jesus chose fishers and tax collectors, carpenters and tentmakers. He moved Nicodemus, the woman from Samaria, the man born blind and Lazarus to a deeper life of faith. And Jesus calls you and me through our baptism to use the gifts that God has given us to make more than a living. We are called to bring life to others, no matter what our vocation.
You may be one like many others wrestling with the idea of ordained ministry. Listen. Listen to your heart, listen to your hunger. Listen to those who know you well. Listen for God.