A couple of years ago, I had a friend of mine, a priest I serve with in the Archdiocese of Toronto come and speak to our Associates; men who are seriously discerning the priesthood. My friend, a priest of just over 40 years was not sure about coming and I had to coax him by assuring him he was the right guy – a joyful man and priest. Even I had no sense of just how appropriate and providential it would be to have him speak to these aspiring young men.
He spoke frankly and honestly about his priesthood and the life while he was easily able to share stories of the great joy he had experienced as a priest; he also shared with these men some of his struggles too. He spoke of the times he felt lonely and isolated, the hard times and challenges he faced as a priest. He even shared with the men his falling in love with someone, facing the challenge of honouring the commitment he made to God and His Church versus the love of a person in his life. He chose priesthood of course, but in the telling of his life’s story he brought all of these things to the key point he shared with us all: his showing up on ordination day was the easiest of the decisions he had made (he also told the guys of his challenges in seminary). The real test and testament to his joyful life with the Lord was the commitment he made, and makes every day to priesthood and his vocation.
He really gave me food for thought: this is true for us all. Whatever our lifelong commitment might be, we make a one-time choice and then the testament to what is real in our life is to be found in the daily living out of that. That’s why seasons like Advent and Lent are so important for us as Christians. We are encouraged to “be watchful” and to “stay alert”. It’s easy to become complacent and indifferent to things, even our faith. It’s easy for us to forget the most essential of things: our need to pray and commune daily with the God we love, extending that love for others in every way we can. We forget to try hard to be virtuous, to live every single day as though it might be our last on this earth. To make a daily commitment to be Christian. My friend reminded me, and called me actually (hopefully others too) to make a daily commitment to my vocation to priesthood – to the life, love and vocation I chose with God’s help.
I often try to take on the world (I think many of us do) and that can be okay but not when we are frustrated and it leads us to become lukewarm or complacent when we don’t see the results we want to see. That’s what Advent should remind us: it’s not about results or always what we see – often it’s about what we don’t see. If we simply commit ourselves day by day to what the Lord has called us to do, we too will be able to look back on a lifetime and see things the way my friend is blessed to see his life.
May the Lord who has begun the good work in us, bring it to fulfillment!