5th Lenten Sunday (Note & Bulletin)

In the first few years of entering the Jesuits, I, along with the other young Jesuits, often had to speak at different gatherings sharing why we chose to become Jesuits. We gave our “Vocation Story” to help others who were considering entering religious life or to those who support the formation of Jesuits. I think at some point for me, I stopped thinking about why I entered and sort of put the car into “cruise control” - saying the same words with the same stories. And once the “young Jesuit” is no longer so young, when more and more grey hair begins to sprout, the invitations to share one's “Vocation Story” become less and less. Since coming to Lourdes, however, several people have asked me why I chose to become a Jesuit. As is my custom in speaking, I usually begin the same way, that is, stumbling over my words. The stumbling is because I'm not sure what to say. I'm tempted to put the car back in “cruise control” and tell the same story I've told since I first became a Jesuit. And then, thankfully, I stop, struggle over words and begin again.

You may remember from earlier remarks that my father died when I was sixteen. The result of his death shattered my life and world. I became an intensely sad person, to the point that depression began to take root within me. While walking through my life, trying to pretend that everything was “ok,” I felt further and further removed from friendships, love, hope and life. I was sinking and sinking in a way that felt inevitable. At the same time, God's place in my life began to change. If I felt myself sinking, I also felt that it was God who was still keeping me afloat. This continued for several years, and no matter how difficult I found it to see “the light at the end of the tunnel,” God kept my head above water, he would not let me stop living. When people use to ask why I became a Jesuit I use to tell a story, going from one event to another. Now, I stumble over my words, hesitate because the words can sound so simple and even superficial, and then say, “I came to know in my heart the love of the Father. When I thought life would slip through my hands, he kept love and hope alive in me. When I felt I couldn‟t go on, he put my arm over his shoulder and bore my weight. Why did I become a Jesuit? I began to fall in love with God.”

In the first reading from the prophet Jeremiah, he writes, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” When we think of living our faith, we can too easily think of it in terms of actions that bestow identity. We think being a Catholic Christian means doing this or doing that. While it is true we share the same prayers, the same postures at Mass and many of the same moral opinions, it is also, absolutely true, that the foundation of our faith is not in any of those. Rather, it is in the simple words that we are coming to know the Father's love, especially as we get nearer to Holy Week. His love is not a theory; it is not an idyllic phrase. His love is real. As we seek to live our faith we may ask ourselves, “Why am I a Catholic?” We may stumble over our words, may even hesitate. But let us listen to our hearts – His love is real and it is everything to us, and we are falling more and more in love with God.

God Bless and Take Care!

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