From Father's Desk

Dear Friends in Christ,

Do you remember the Peace Corps advertising from the 80s and 90s: “The toughest job you will ever love!” Remarkable and heartwarming commercials about dedication and change, helping make the world a better place, not only through programs but relationships. Made me want to join, but God had a different path for me.

Still that line resonates deeply with me. It is how I feel about the priesthood, especially being a pastor. This is a tough job; sometimes the weight can even feel overwhelming. If I did not have confidence that God was with me, that the Holy Spirit sent me here and guides me (when I bend my ear to get in tune with his encouragement) I am not sure I would be able to keep going.

In chapter four of Seriously God? Fr. Michael shares some heartache about decisions he made as a young pastor, the consequences that followed, and even letters to the bishop! He noted, “How could this be happening in a Catholic Church? How could this be happening to me? I came to the parish to serve the Lord and he did not seem to be on my side,” (p.75).  This week we are exploring the times when God seems to be uncooperative, when the roadblocks of life pile up before us and the obstacles seem too great.

What are some obstacles in your life? For me, the pandemic has been the greatest obstacle. So many things have become more challenging. One of my biggest questions is how can we invite our people back to Mass, and especially, to living out our beautiful faith with greater devotion and love? We are not going to go back to the way things were in 1999, 2009, or 2019 - those days are gone. We have to move forward. But for me at times, I just feel like my boots are caked with mud and each step takes great energy.

And in those moments, even though it is something I want deeply, I must admit that God may not be behind all that effort. It may be what I want, but not what God wants. Or God may be striving to bring us to a different place. One passage from the book this week really spoke to me:

“Possibly you experience obstacles over and over again because God wants to bring you to a different place, a deeper level of trust in him. God never appears to someone in the Bible and says, ‘I have a really easy job for you, and I promise to smooth out even the smallest obstacles.’ Nothing worth accomplishing is ever easy; it never comes without difficulties,” (p. 83)

And I continue to take in our parish reality with prayer and a spirit of discernment, I also see wonderful opportunities. For one, this time has given me the chance to get to know a little bit better the people who are coming to Mass, to take some time and meet the parish family. This time has also been a chance for each of us to grow more deeply in our faith and trust in God, a period of stretching, like the two week journey from Egypt to Israel that became a 40 year trek through the desert! Third, this period has also served to sift us and help us to recognize what is truly important in our lives.

The Spiritual Campaign we began with Lent, with the book, small groups, and our parish prayer cards, is a great moment for us to grow in our faith and our trust. When we get frustrated with God and ask: “What are you doing?” Or “Why is this happening?” Perhaps a better question could be: “Where are you leading us?” Rather than think He is in our way, maybe God is inviting us down another path, or challenging us to grow into the disciples He needs us to be.

Faithfully following,
Fr. Joel Wilson