I don't know all about you guys but this Lent has already had a profound effect on me. After a few weeks or so of penance, prayer, and almsgiving goodness, I am struggling and seeing where the Lord wants to convert my heart. The penances which I have taken up have become like a law which I have laid upon myself and I constantly have brushed up against them thinking, "What, I have to do this again, today?" Though not a good picture of penance, the reality is this struggle over penance has brought me to an understanding of my own self-centeredness and my own desire to have it my way. It has also allowed me to move towards a greater focus on God and neighbor and less on myself.
My spiritual director commented on my struggles and pointed out that I was trying to live my life on my terms. I have seen this reflected in my daily life since a child. I realized how blessed I was to be raised in a good and loving family, receiving a good education, and blessed with good health. Everything has been given to me. Plus seminary life, despite what some may say, can be somewhat easy on the living your life on your own terms. Sometimes you can feel almost spoonfed. It's not hard to find ways to take back your life. Formation really is up to you. So I found that this desire to live my life my way growing and in a sense, being saddened by my lack of ability to fight it.
My spiritual director compared it a bit to the child who wants what he wants, when he wants, how he wants, and where he wants. That is a whole lot of wanting. :) And in fact, my Lent has been a time to really begin to live not by my own terms but God's terms.
A further example if you don't mind. I recently completed my second draft of my self-evaluation. For those of you who do not know, one of the requirements towards the end of each academic year, is to write a self-evaluation noting both your progress and struggles over the course of the year in the realms of spiritual, human, pastoral, and academic formation. This is not exactly the easiest task. But what I have found for myself is that my own change from formation in the states to formation in Rome has been difficult. I've questioned and doubted why God would put me here. I've wondered if maybe this was a sign I was not supposed to be in the seminary at all. I had so many questions. But I found myself returning to my own experience of God's grace, most especially in how God called me, realizing that if God called me, then there must be something to be said for this experience in Rome.
And I have come to realize, that this change, has become a way for God's grace to continue to work in my heart, to transform my own desire to have life on my terms, and make it really life on God's terms. I've been so hungry to do ministry, believing that I had talents in youth ministry, and feeling like God was not using me. I have moved towards understanding, albeit slowly, that God has his plans for forming my heart and using me as He desires to bring about the Kingdom of God. It is not for me to decide on my own how that should take place. In fact, this really mirrors diocesan life where my place of ministry is not simply my own decision but one in which the Bishop and the priest council discern the place best suited for myself and the people of God. (by the way, that's Bishop Soto at 40 days for Life! Woohoo!)
The reality of this life, of this vocation especially, is that it must be on God's terms or it will fail miserably. We cannot simply live according to what we want. It does not work. It takes God out of the picture and once we take God out of the picture, we start losing our own sense of self. We only know ourselves by looking to God in Jesus Christ who shows us our proper true identity as sons and daughters of the Father. Once we've lost our identity, we cannot possibly fulfill our calling as man and woman nor as icons of the Father. We'll only do what we desire, which often times is debased or unbalanced, and we'll never be directed towards our greatest good of all, God. Obviously by this I do not mean that living on God's terms will always be the easiest road or the most pleasant, but it's the right one and it's the one that leads us closer to relationship with God. And it's the one that leads us home. AMDG.