Needless to say, the last 6 months have been different than most. They have been filled with doubts, consolations, struggles, even isolation. The direction my life is taking me is not one that I had expected, nor one that I even wanted. But Christ’s hand is so clearly there, that I cannot but say yes to where I am going. The more I pray and reflect on what I am to embark on, the more I think “wow, what a gift”.
The gift, however, is scary.
It is scary because there is nothing more profound than the encounter with Christ in the poor. When you encounter that real presence of Christ in the face of the downtrodden, the isolated, the forgotten, you really encounter Him. When you encounter Him, it scares you because you realize everything has to change in your life to conform to Him Whom you are serving. I know this because I have encountered this numerous times in my life.
Often we run away from the poor because Christ in them challenges us to a far more radical life devoted to Him.
The more I reflect on this, the more I realize that my fears, struggles, torments are not due to the “sudden shift” that has taken place. So I’m not going to be in the seminary next year, so I’m going to a new place. Yes, fear comes with this, but it goes away quite quickly.
No, these elements in my life are of a spiritual nature: they are of the devil because they are trying to turn me away from the face of Christ. Perhaps a part of me is too attached to certain things in life, and to encounter Christ in the poor forces me to re-assess these attachments. Perhaps I have been fighting my trip not because it is uncomfortable and different – it is that, though. No, I think in this situation I have at times fought with it because it means I am going to have to change my life. It is going to have to change completely. And it is not the demand of a vengeful God that is going to do this to me. It is going to be the encounter with that gaze of Love that transformed the world on the Cross 2000 years ago. True Love, that love that expends itself totally for you, that is what changes the heart that is open to receiving it. I know in my life that I am not only open to receiving it, but I desperately want it.
But that desire that is at the core of my heart is a desire that scares me because it means I will no longer be the same. I will no longer enjoy the same things I do now, nor even be able to participate in the friendships and so forth that I do now. This is because it means that Christ becomes my total focus. It means choosing Him above all else.
This is the challenge of life: to choose Christ and Him alone, in all situations and circumstances. It is lofty, and scary. We do not even realize how deep that call goes because we avoid the people and times that give us the opportunity to encounter Him. We must take Matthew 25 as literally as possible.
When one encounters Him in the lonely, the destitute, the abandoned, the thirsty, the hungry, the diseased, it is truly an encounter with Him. What scares me is also what gives me the greatest sense of hope.
And so I prepare myself for this journey in two weeks. I have no doubts that I will come back a different man than I was before, but one more filled with joy and purpose and devotion than I am now. That is what encountering Christ does to us. It is a profound gift He offers us, if we only had the ears and heart to hear Him. I am afraid of the future because I know not what it holds, but as one friend recently said to me in an e-mail, quoting the Gospels: “Behold, I will go before you to Galilee and will meet you there”. He really is there to guide, guard, and protect. I know this in my heart of hearts. And I know that what is stony in my heart now will be turned into flesh with an encounter with the Risen Lord in the faces of the poor and abandoned.
Yes, it will challenge me to a greater poverty, a greater simplicity of life, a greater life of prayer, a greater life of obedience, a growing in having a chaste heart focused solely on the Lord. It will, in the ancient sense of the term, encourage me to become more evangelical and to embrace the counsels of apostolic life.
And so I go with a whole whack of different emotions in my heart. It is my hope that when the odd opportunity allows, I will be using my blog to share brief updates whenever I can get to a computer, which I do not expect to happen very often. But when I do, I will update the blog to let people know what is happening, and how the encounter with Jesus Christ is helping me in my vocational call as a diocesan priest. I ask for your prayers and also, if you wish for me to pray for you, please simply contact me. I would encourage you to subscribe via e-mail if you wish for updates as I do not know when or how often I will be updating. This way, you will get a direct e-mail in your inbox with my updates.
For those who read the blog and are unaware, I will be working for 6 months with the Missionaries of Charity in Gallup, New Mexico in their mission of serving the poorest of the poor. This is part of my formation on the path, hopefully, towards priesthood.
Sincerely in Christ