Genesis 12:1-4; Psalm 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22; 2 Timothy 1:8-10; Matthew 17:1-9
Abram went as the LORD directed him. (Genesis 12:4)
How many of you have faced a decision about moving to a far-off place or to a major career change? In today’s world of expansive communication and transportation, few of us can answer “no” to that question. But the fact that it is now easier to uproot oneself does not make the decision to do so any easier.
Compared to my three siblings, who have lived in four states and the District of Columbia, I am the loyal local of the family. A Florida native (yes, we do exist), the furthest I’ve spread my roots is two counties away on the opposite coast of the state. After leaving Fort Lauderdale nine years ago, I’ve established my adult life just two and a half hours from parental rescue, which I have requested from time to time. I’ve established myself as a teacher and freelance sportswriter, had a marriage start and end, and gone through the joys and struggles of raising two young children.
What brought me to this corner of what the snowbirds call “paradise” (because they’re not here in July like the rest of us)? As Abram was directed to journey to an unfamiliar land in this weekend’s First Reading, was I “supposed” to move here, or was it just a matter of happenstance that I got a job offer here nine years ago? I can throw in a predestinational quandary by pointing out that my two kids would not exist if I hadn’t, but that’s already making my head spin, so I won’t go there.
The more significant question is where I go from here. That’s not so easy to figure out. The Gospel reading, Matthew’s account of the Transfiguration, provides a simple instruction, when the voice in the cloud tells Jesus’ three “A-Team” apostles to “listen to him.” (17:5)
But listening to Jesus is not so simple. I don’t expect to see him making a physical appearance of radiant glory in this life, nor am I waiting for the voice in the cloud to tell me what to do, so I have to find another way to hear what he is telling me to do. As Paul tells Timothy in the Second Reading, following the call to a holy life is working comes from God’s “own design,” (1:9) not our own. So how do I know if it’s God or me that’s prompting my life decisions? Did I follow God’s calling when I took my teaching job at a center for at-risk girls, or was it pride that caused me to eschew taking a job at another “normal” school? Is my side job as a sports stringer simply for my benefit, as something fun that I get paid to do, or is there any form of God’s purpose in covering the Florida Gulf Coast University’s basketball team one day and middle school soccer another? Is my role with Pax Christi Florida and our local DART chapter a response to a call to work for justice, or am I just continuing the narrative of a life where I’ve always dreamed of sticking it to the powerful?
The fact is, I don’t know. I just have to keep praying, following the Gospel, and, as the psalmist alludes, continue with the confidence that God will be my help and shield (33:20). I’m not always (or even often) going to be on the money with my discernment, but I suspect that the decision to want to follow Jesus is a good first step.
Nota bene: Speaking of people going to unknown lands, check out the Glenmary Home Missioners. This order of priests and brothers, with the help of lay volunteers, has been working towards ministering to impoverished towns in the rural South and Appalachia, areas that have a sparse Catholic presence.