In the Summer of 2013, I was blessed to be able to go to a wonderful Christian music concert in my little town of Emlenton. Aaron Shust came to the campground run by one of the evangelical churches up the road. One of his songs is entitled, Give me Words to Speak. (I don’t have permission to link, but find it on ITunes or Youtube) Here are some of the lyrics of the song:
Calloused and bruised/ dazed and confused
My Spirit is left wanting something more
Than my selfish hopes/ and my selfish dreams
I’m lying with my face down to the floor
I’m crying out for more
Give me Words to speak
Don’t let my Spirit sleep
Cause I can’t think of anything worth saying
But I know that I owe You my life
So give me Words to speak
Don’t let my Spirit sleep
My Spirit is left wanting something more than my selfish hopes and selfish dreams. Now, we might be tempted to think that “selfish hopes” and “selfish dreams” are only for the “unchurched”. Are they? I have encountered within myself, and within plenty of church folks, hopes and dreams unrelated to God’s hopes and dreams. In other words, we sometimes take our own desires and assume that God will bless them, and we run with them. We never ask God what He might want. Maybe God wants something different than what we want? When we run our own race, and things don’t work out, we may even blame God. Then, we start up the same thought process again, and we arrive at the same dead end again. Repeat process. Endless frustration. Face down on the floor.
I can look all around me and see this frustration, this exasperation, this anger. How could God allow all of this to happen? How does God allow the Holocaust to happen to His original chosen people? How does God allow abortion, genocide, and war? Why do bad people sometimes prosper, and good people suffer? Why are there so many who die of hunger, thirst, or disease all over the world? Why does He allow addictions- alcohol, drugs, pornography? Why does God allow children to be abused? Why? Further, I see the struggles of my parishioners – some seem to be holding on by a thread. The clergy is very much burdened by much “vineyard work” and not enough laborers to do the work. Vocations seem to be lacking – Mass attendance declining- schools closing. What to do? God ends any hopes in us that are evil. But what can be make of a God that denies the good hopes of our hearts, even the purest of our hopes? What can we make of a God who allows very evil things, while denying good things?
We remember St. Peter. Peter had high hopes for his master, Jesus. When Jesus told Peter that He was going to Jerusalem to be crucified, Peter replied, “God forbid, Lord.” What if Peter would have had his way? There would be no Cross and no salvation from sin. Thank God that Peter didn’t have his way. Peter underwent the purification of hope- a rather painful purification. In fact, in his hopelessness, Peter denied Jesus 3 times. He also ran from Jesus in His time of greatest need. But Peter was forgiven in his encounter with the Risen Jesus. Peter was transformed so completely that he would go to his own Cross to be crucified!
It must be the same with us! We may be the best of people, but we are not God. Only God can show us what is truly good! Only God can show us our vocation. Only God can lead us to true peace. We must ask before we act – we must pray before we move. But that road takes us through suffering, pain, and death. We often do not want to walk this road, for it is a hard one. Heaven is at the end of the road, but that road takes us through some tough neighborhoods along the way. But only by walking this road, can we realize our hope! What do we call expectation of a good result in the midst of a bad situation? We call that hope.
Indeed, purify my hopes, Lord. Prune me that I may be strong enough to bear the fruit that I should. Help me to view the future not through my own manipulation and planning, but through trust in your will, and my stewardship of your gifts as you reveal them to me daily.
We are not unlike the widow at Zarephath! The offering of love today gives us hope for a jug that will never run dry…….
Prayer for Vocations
Lord God, creator of all things and source of all gifts and talents, your Son came to this world to fulfill His vocation as the Redeemer of all humanity.
Grant the sons and daughters of the parishes of the Diocese of Erie a profound awareness of their own vocations. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, may they come to realize their distinct place in your divine plan.
Give them the grace to recognize and the courage to pursue vocations as devoted priests, deacons and consecrated women and men to assist the Diocese of Erie in fulfilling her mission.
With the intercession of Saint Patrick, our patron, who preached the Gospel in word and deed, we pray that they may find happiness and fulfillment in a life of service to others.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Imprimatur, July 29, 2013
The Most Reverend Lawrence T. Persico, JCL
Bishop of Erie