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from fathers desk

Dear Family in Christ,

On Monday, we commemorated the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, an event that reshaped his life and also the trajectory of Christianity, even the world. That one event caused a seismic shift of epic proportions (!) to borrow some language from Matthew Kelly, and our message series book: I Heard God Laugh . Indeed, over the course of these past two weekends, we haven encountered the Lord recruiting disciples, inviting those who would follow him to leave one life behind and take up another. Last week, we prayed with Mark’s account of Jesus calling Simon, Andrew, James and John. Two weeks ago, we prayed with John’s account of John the Baptist’s involvement in the encouragement of Simon and Andrew. Each of these moments, retold in a few words, reshaped the lives of these men and affected the whole world.

Would you say that you have a calling from the Lord? Do we experience ourselves as being called and invited to follow Jesus?

As a young man I thought callings were only for great people. My mindset was hampered by an imperfect understanding that special vocations existed and then there was the rest of us. Reading the work of Saint John Paul helped me to gain a deeper sense that God calls each Christian to holiness of life along a unique path. We are all called to holiness of life (see LG Ch.V ). We are all called to follow closely in the footsteps of the Lord, each in our manner of life and particular circumstances. Your calling is not mine or your neighbor’s. All vocations are personal invitations. Yet we are all called to the same holiness.

This understanding unfolded in deeper and more consistent prayer. Kelly outlines Six Seismic Shifts in Part Four of the book. This week we focus on the first 3, next week the next 3. Here is a summary:

1) Begin the conversation - dialogue, prayer process
2) Ask what God wants - not a list but listening
3) Give yourself to prayer - carefree timelessness, focus on being
4) Transform everything into prayer - practice presence of God
5) Make self available - prayer of abandonment
6) Keep showing up! - desolation and consistency

As a young man, I had begun the conversation with God, but more often brought my concerns rather than my heart to be shaped by the Lord. In college, God sent me friends who were asking the question: “Jesus what do you want from my life?” What a bold question! They taught me to ask and listen (phase two). To ask God what He wants means we have to be ready to accept that it may not be what (we think) we want. We may have to change our plans, shift our focus, enter into deeper conversion.

So much of my early years involved me planning for my future that it was a revelation to invite God to share HIS vision for my life. God has a plan for each of us. It may not include preaching like Saint Paul or shepherding like Saint Peter. God’s plan for each of us may not be as spectacular, glamorous or epic - it could just be as simple as pastoring the people of Shade Shade - but it is HIS plan for us, which means that it is the path to an abundant life. God’s plan for us is our path to holiness.

The third shift focuses on time and being, allowing ourselves to be shaped and molded by our loving Father. “Here am I, Lord, I come to do your will,” is a beautiful synopsis of this movement. For me in college, time in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was paramount in moving into this phase. Stillness and presence were abundant. Prayer became more about sitting with a companion more than words. Praying everyday (for me) really reduced my desire to prattle on, allowing God to speak, and more importantly to act on my heart, placing there his desires for my life. Receptivity is a key term in this phase. Think of Mary’s words “Let it be done to me according to your will.” As I slowly turned myself over to Him, Jesus was working on me. The patient must be still for the surgeon to work. Listening in the still led me here, to you.

Next week we move to focus on the next three seismic shifts (pp. 73-87). May God grant us the grace to make ourselves available to Him.

Yours faithfully,
Fr. Wilson