Sunday, December 11, 2016

Advent Patience: Is God Calling Me to Be a Priest?

Patience is definitely an Advent virtue.  Hold out a little while longer; the light is coming into the world! Where there is darkness, light will dawn. Where there is confusion, clarity will come. Where there is sorrow, joy. Advent beckons us--in the face of despair and discouragement--not to lose hope, but to remain firm. What is longed for, will arrive.  Patience.  Wait for the Lord. He is coming.

Fair enough. Advent encourages us to be patient.  But patience, especially when it comes to one's vocation in life, isn't sitting around, paralyzed by fear.  Advent also encourages us to hurry.  We are to set out for Bethlehem. We are to prepare our hearts so that when Jesus knocks, he finds us in joyful anticipation. Our patience is not just sitting around until something better or clearer arrives.  Our patience is not meant to be passive. It is active. Our patience is lived by hurrying to meet the Lord despite the darkness, uncertainties, and fears that envelop us. 

Sometimes when a man thinks that Jesus may be calling him to a priestly vocation, he goes into a position of, "Well, I will just sit here and if God really wants me to be a priest, then He will do something."  This is not Advent patience.  Advent patience moves towards God even as God moves towards us. Advent patience acts on graces that are given even though the end result of those graces is hidden from our eyes. Advent patience is lived by moving forward despite not having absolute clarity. 

During the Christmas Season, we will celebrate the great Feast of the Epiphany.  Yes, the Magi were given a sign; a star.  But, that sign on its own did nothing. These men would have gained nothing if all they had done was looked up and saw the star. They did not look up and say, "Huh, maybe that means something. Let's sit around and see what happens."  No, they followed. Despite all of the adversity that they encountered, they moved forward. They persevered. Signs are given to us so that we can follow.

If a young man has the inclination that Jesus may be calling him to the priesthood, that may well be a sign. If the Church encourages that man to enter seminary, then that is another sign. Signs are meant to be followed.  There is an overwhelming temptation at times to doubt the signs, to demand more signs, and to spend enormous amounts of time trying to discern whether this sign is good enough or not.  Advent patience, on the other hand, does not place someone in perpetual discernment paralysis.  Advent patience teaches us to move forward despite the lack of perfect clarity. 

If you have been given a sign that you potentially have a priestly vocation, I can confidently say that God did not give you this sign so that you can endlessly stare at the sign and wonder whether it is a sign or whether you should just sit around and wait for another sign.  He gave you that sign so that you can pack up your camel and follow. Things will become clearer when you actually move. The sign given to the Magi moved.  They followed it.  Light is meant to be followed. If the light is moving, sitting around is only going to leave you in darkness.

Between the beginning of a priestly call and an ordination, there is a long road to be travelled. The only way to know with certitude what the sign is leading one to is to begin following it. If in your heart, a light has arisen that makes you wonder whether God is calling you to a priestly vocation, yes, be patient.  Be patient, but hurry up and follow. The sign that God has given to leads someplace beautiful. It leads to Christ.

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