Today’s Gospel gives us a dose of reality. Jesus has an accurate and realistic sense of what the climate of the world will be when the Son of God is removed from it. His disciples and followers will mourn His death and long His presence. Those who felt He “got in the way” will be glad He is gone, or indifferent to the whole event and fact. Jesus speaks to His followers using the analogy of a mother giving birth; a very good one. As mothers know, and husbands better than I childbirth is rarely an easy thing and there is pain and suffering there, rarely is the act of giving birth a pure pleasure I am sure. But when a mother looks at the child born to her, the pain is insignificant in comparison to the joy received. This is the beauty of love and love beyond ourselves.
The great blessing of my work in vocations ministry is working with men and women who find themselves deep into the meaning of life; seeking to understand their meaning and purpose in this world. As disciples and followers of Jesus, they know that is in Him that they will find these answers to the fundamental question(s) we have in this world: “why did God put me here? What am I here for? What is my purpose in particular?” Often in the early stages of discernment, and truthfully perhaps throughout our discernment and well into living out our vocation we concern ourselves with the pain and suffering that might be associated with the vocation we choose. What I mean by that is that for men discerning priesthood, there is the worry that they won’t be happy and fulfilled without a wife and children, that they will spend their lives feeling like they missed out on something, that they will be lonely, that they will find out one day that they made the wrong choice, that people will turn away from them or even that they will not get to have a “normal” life. As I have come to discover as a vocation director, it’s not my job to convince anyone that these things aren’t true. I truly see that my greatest gift as a vocation director is my own joyful witness (joy truly felt I will add). I also try not to sugarcoat the truth – not everyone is called to the priesthood! Or religious life! When you are, you will know you are. It doesn’t mean there won’t be struggles, pain and suffering at times, but there isn’t a vocation that doesn’t have those things. That’s part of sacrifice which is a necessary ingredient to any vocation, or life that’s worth living.
Throughout my life, but most especially in seminary, I needed plenty of formation and personal maturing and spiritual growth before I was ready to give my life in a particular and unique way (through priesthood). I needed to study and learn so that I might teach others, I needed to learn how to become a gentler person who came to know how to love people on a deeper level and a person who loved others more and went beyond myself more often. This wasn’t always easy, but on the day of my ordination and then every day since then, I experience the joy of that commitment. I have dark moments and dark days, I know we all do, but even then I am reminded of the birth of my vocation many years ago and when I was “born” a priest four years ago now and the joy of that far exceeds anything I’ve suffered along the way.