Second Sunday of Advent
December 6, 2015
What is Gods Call for Us?
In the Gospel reading for today, Luke writes “the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:2b-3). John heard God calling him. He responded to Gods call by proclaiming a baptism of repentance. I am going to talk about the challenges of discerning our vocation for our lives and how we respond to Gods invitation.
On this 12th anniversary of my ordination as a deacon of the Church, I want remind everyone here today that by virtue of our baptism we are all call to be ministers for Christ. So each of us has a vocation to which God is calling us (and we can have more than one vocation). Just as John the Baptist heard God calling him in the wilderness, we too want to listen to hear the voice of God.
For us, in our society today there is a major challenge we may face when God calls us. Our lives are busy with things to do and places to go. Lets face it we live in a culture that is on the go 24/7. We are always doing a particular task, working, picking up the kids, or going to another meeting. Also we can constantly be distracted by watching television or other electronic devices, listening to music, doing something to occupy the passing time. It is three weeks before Christmas. Are we spending any quiet time away from our frantic busyness to discern Gods voice?
I believe that God, in order to get our attention, may allow us to participate in a wilderness experience. A wilderness experience is defined as an encounter of unknown challenges that for me, may cause me to trust and discover a new insight for my life. For instance, a Biblical example is the story when the people whom God freed from Egypt spent forty years in the wilderness so they could be forged as a people who followed the one God. Also Jesus spent forty days in the desert, alone, before He began His public ministry.
Today any person can participate in a wilderness experience the Native Americans call a vision quest. A vision quest is a supernatural experience in which an individual seeks to interact with a guardian spirit, usually an anthropomorphized animal to obtain advice or protection. I thought it would be interesting to share the requirements needed to go through a vision quest.
The requirements for a vision quest are:
1. Able to fast
2. Able to camp out for long periods of time
3. Knowledge of first aid
4. Prepare sleeping equipment or sleep on the ground
5. Knowledge of spiritual things like meditation
6. Bring a spiritual instrument so you can play or chant
7. Be comfortable with the solitude
8. If the weather permits you may wish to remove all clothing or cover yourself in a blanket
9. Create a sacred stone circle on the ground in which the person sits
10. A journal to record your experience
I guess I wont be participating in a vision quest anytime soon. Wilderness experiences are challenging to go through; I dont enjoy them but I pay attention.
One wilderness experience I went through caused a major transition for my spiritual life. My cousin Peggy was diagnosed with melanoma in 1970. She lived for only five years. When my mother told me Peggy would not survive through the night, I felt heartbroken. After all, I assumed that the two of us would grow old together. Peggy was only 19 years old; I was 21. That night I called my voice teacher, Susan Witt, and talked to her for an hour. From that conversation, the only words I remember Susan saying to me were; “hold on to what you believe! Until this experience, my belief in God only was intellectual. The only answers the Roman Catholic Church offered me were doctrinal theology or the Baltimore Catechism. That was not helpful. I did not have a personal, living relationship with God. Yet Jesus asserted that God is a God of the living, not the dead. From then on I knew that in order for me to face the challenges of my life, I want to experience God in a heartfelt way.
I believe that when God gets us to pay attention during a wilderness encounter, it should lead us into a time of reflection. It is a time for us to notice what is really important in our lives; our relationships with God, our families and our friends, human, animal, and nature. I believe that we are not meant to be continually going and doing and not take the time to notice, wonder and be present. I called Sister Lorita Moffat, my spiritual director, last week to find how she was recovering after major surgery last fall. True to form, she replied, I am learning how to be present every day. In another words, we are both learning how to live in the present moment. This is teaching both of us to trust God. Another person who experienced John of the Cross dark soul of the night was Mother Theresa. Many times in her journal she wrote that she did not feel worthy of Godslove. By the way, there is a new movie that was just released about her life.
After I lived through wilderness experiences, reflected on their importance for my life, and continually learn to trust God in the present moment, then I could discern and still am discerning Gods call for me. How do I respond to Gods call this time? With what I am experiencing at this present moment I believe I am called to listen, reflect, pray, wait and be present. However, this is not what I had in mind that I would be doing at this time in my life. When I retired from my paid job, I had some dreams I want to complete. Like most people in our American culture, I dont want to be sidetracked and have my dreams put on hold. God has other ideas for me at the present moment. God knows what God is doing even when I do not have a clue.
And some of you may think the clergy has all the answers. I have news for you. I have been told that the clergy are the keepers of lifes important questions.
The poem, The Advent, written by a Jesuit priest, Anthony de Mello, describes in beautiful, simple words, what I have said.
The events of history were controlled
For my coming to this world
No less thanfor the coming of the Savior.
The time had to be ripe,
The place just right,
The circumstances ready,
Before I could be born.
God chose the parents of his Son
And endowed them with the personality they needed
For the child that would be born.
I speak to God about the man and woman that he chose
To be my parents
Until I see that they had to be
The kind of human beings they were
If I was to become
What God meant me to be.
The Christ child comes, like every other child,
To give the world a message.
What message have I come to give?
I seek guidance from the Lord to express it
In a word
Christ comes into this world
To walk a certain path,
Fulfill a certain destiny.
He consciously fulfilled what had been written for him.
As I look back I see in wonder what was written
And has thus far been fulfilled
In my own life,
And for each part of that script,
I say, Thanks
To make it holy with my gratitude.
I look with expectation
At all that is to come
And, like the Christ,
I say, Yes. Let it be done.
Finally I recall the song the angels sang
When Christ was born.
They sang of the peace and joy
That give God glory.
Have I ever heard the song the angels sang
When I was born?
I see with joy what has been done through me
To make the world a better place
And I join those angels
In the song they sang
To celebrate my birth.
This poem is true for all of us.
What is our vocation? We are all called to encounter the wilderness, listen, reflect, discern, and respond to Gods invitation. We are called to be people of hope, like John the Baptist was for people in the first century. We have a way to live in this chaotic, violent, and broken world. God wants us to cultivate a living, loving, forgiving, grace filled relationship with God. We are to share with other people that they too can enjoy this life-giving relationship no matter what life brings them. We all called to share the good news, or gospel, with people who are suffering, lost or lonely in this world. We can do share the good news with confidence, no matter what, because God is and always will be Emmanuel-God with us. Amen.
Rev. Deacon Tricia Rosso