Today’s readings are a marvelous combination of Scriptures that have provided much guidance to me over the years, particularly when I was discerning my vocation to the priesthood.
The first time the passage from Sirach came to my attention I was a seminarian at the North American College in Rome. I was visiting another student, and this passage was framed and hanging on his wall. I remember we had quite a discussion about the significance of this biblical wisdom.
My son, when you come to serve the LORD,
stand in justice and fear,
prepare yourself for trials.
Be sincere of heart and steadfast,
incline your ear and receive the word of understanding,
undisturbed in time of adversity.
Wait on God, with patience, cling to him, forsake him not;
thus will you be wise in all your ways. (Sirach 2:1-11)
I believe we all need to be realistic that our affiliation with the Lord will entail its share of difficulties. Simply believing in God and living by faith does not mean that life will be easy. It does not take much time reading Scripture to see the trials that God’s servants endure. We can use all the grace and scriptural reminders we can get to help us patiently endure the trials that are a part of our service of God and the Gospel.
Jesus in Mark’s Gospel gives us the same, no-nonsense reality therapy:
“If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” (Mark 9: 35)
This is not too far from the other serious teaching Jesus gives regarding discipleship: “Whoever wishes to be my disciple must take up his cross and follow me.” Of course, there is no stronger teaching in this regard than Jesus’ own passion, crucifixion and death. Love does have a cost. We must be realistic about this as we intentionally commit ourselves daily to Christ and His Gospel.
Today’s Psalm has the same gentle invitation, from a slightly different approach: Commit your life to the Lord, and he will help you. (Psalm 37) In other words, the Lord lovingly receives our “Yes” to his invitation to follow Him, and gives us all we need to grow in love.
I remember very specifically the first time this passage caught my attention. I was once again in the seminary, wrestling with God’s plan for me. I was greatly lacking in my trust in God! This line was a direct voice of God to me in those days telling me: “Hand yourself over to me, and I will take care of you and all that you need to accomplish my will.”
So, Church, keep ‘giving’ all you’ve got to the Lord. Don’t be surprised at the cost. How can God act if we do not give him a chance? And don’t forget the great reward awaiting in the friendship with Christ we are promised in this life, and the rewards of eternal life in God’s presence!