As a Vocation Director, I am getting used to telling my own vocation story. I have to believe that because upon reflection, the Lord called me to priesthood in the midst of my baptism; in fact, the invitation came from my pastor a week before I was received into the Church – that He was giving me signs then that at 32 I needed to get on with living and giving my life for Him. My discernment began around October or November of the year of my becoming Catholic [seven months after baptism], and then in mid December, my mother was diagnosed with aggressive cancer, cancer that would take her life in August of the next year. This almost derailed my vocational discernment; I was reeling from the death of my mother and had moments throughout where I couldn’t understand why despite my fervent prayer my mother was taken from me. I was barely baptized and slowly discerning and thrust out into the desert – like Jesus! The reality is that as I turned to Scripture, to the Gospel my life and the hurt, pain, the challenges of my life were what formed me to be (I hope I am) a compassionate and giving priest. I encountered the Lord in this hardship and then every subsequent hardship and challenge of my life. And these hardships prepared me for the next step which was to evangelize; repenting and living for the Good News. Your story might be different, it might not move in the rapid rate that my story does; but that’s okay. In reflecting on Mark’s Gospel these events are accounted in rapid sequence and this reminds me; in other Gospel narratives it’s accounted differently, but the direction and manner in which Jesus begins the mission is the same – He begins from the beginning, He is led into the desert, challenged and then He begins.
Mark’s Gospel today on this first Sunday of Lent helps us to see in a very fluid way, that we are not called to sit and wait when the Lord calls us into relationship with Him – we are called to give it all, immediately! Challenges and the desert experiences are not meant to be setbacks, but as they are for our Lord Himself; purifications which actually help us to grow and to share ourselves and with each other the great glory of the Lord Himself; we must remember always that without the Cross there is no Christ. Friends, allow the waters of baptism to wash you clean, and be reconciled and returned to that state. Look at the challenges, tests, the desert experiences of your lives as ways we grow closer to the Lord. Then live, love, evangelize; live your life for the Lord serving Him in a special way through your vocation. You won’t regret it if it’s truly your way!