I'm going to try to write part two, following on from the Encounter Ministries conference.
I decided in advance to leave the conference early because I knew that today is Epiphany, and I felt it important to be back in my parish, and dutifully in my choir spot for this feast.
It was Epiphany Sunday in 2009 when I first sang with this choir, and it suffices to say that I captured an authentic experience of God in that blog post. In fact, next to the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass which sparked my conversion to Catholicism, that Epiphany Sunday was one of the single most significant moments in my Catholic life.
Just like Christmas coming around yearly was a true and dramatic re-meeting of the grace I experienced on the night of my conversion for years and years, I have found that Epiphany has been the same for this other experience of God. I didn't want to miss being where God could reveal something more to me.
I remember the moment in Japan when I was at a parish Bible study, unable to understand much of what was going on, but having a burning sense that God's call to me had to do with parish life.
I remember despondantly watching people go up to recieve communion when I was not yet confirmed as a Catholic. I wanted so much to do what they were doing, but I also judged them for not loving God as much as I did. God impressed on me: "These are the people I have called you to love."
I recall hearing at Christmas that the shepherds who watched their flocks were those who were raising sacrificial lambs for the temple, as we sang "The First Nowell" as a prelude. Suddenly, I felt like I was filling in the blank form I saw last year at Epiphany, about how Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost all lead from one into the next. As we sang the opening hymn, We Three Kings, it made complete sense that the gifts the Kings brought spoke of Jesus' death, and burial. Epiphany does announce the whole Paschal Mystery.
And in this grace that the Lord has led me into, I have had the cycle of joyful mysteries, the cycle of sorrowful mysteries, and the cycle of luminous mysteries. I heard the bells ringing years ago, announcing Pentecost. I heard them ringing again months ago, announcing Pentecost. I saw it happening over the weekend. It is dawning; it has dawned. The glorious mysteries. God is not done.
And where it happens, the glorious, mysterious, unfolding of my very own vocation, is right there, right here, in my normal life, and in my parish. That which leads is mysterious, but my need is daily to seek and ask and look for Jesus, to plead to see Him more clearly, to plead for clear revelation. The glory is Jesus, and only Jesus. It is a perilous, dangerous moment, when Herod seeks to destroy, and utter discretion, mature wisdom, complete mistrust of evil intent must prevail.
I suppose none of this makes a shred of sense, but this is because it is alive.
I came back from the conference early because the place where God speaks powerfully into my life is in my own parish, and in the ministry I'm a part of there. That part is easy. What God speaks and how I respond... that part has never been easy, and it is always simple, because it is about one thing: Seek Jesus, Follow Jesus, Trust Jesus, and Only Jesus.
One thing the conference reminded me of is to constantly seek more. I think this was hard for me, because I can habitually ask more of myself always, and it wears me out. In fact, I've been learning not to ask so much of myself. I need to put into practice the reality that asking more of God is not to push myself into work mode, or to expect more "output" from me. It is to desire Him. Maybe I am a bit afraid of, as Teresa put it, "I die because I do not die." To desire -- ah, it can be so painful. And to desire without picturing how God is supposed to answer. Oy!
I think there is something here. I think I fear the pain of desiring, of longing. But this really was what Fr. Riccardo spoke of. I also intuit that there is more purification to be had.
"More, Lord. More." How many times did someone pray that over the weekend. At one point, I think it was Fr. Matthias who asked everyone to pray that, like a small child. Praying from the place is a purifying thing, too.
I think all this is another reason why I feel frightened to be losing my spiritual director, even if I never really sought his help as one to show me where to go. But I knew I had a safe port, and accountability, and someone knew.
What the Lord showed me was that running into the Lord's embrace, I drop the worries, even the fear of the pain, because the embrace of the Lord dwarfs all that.
And, that really is what Epiphany tells me today, too. It is all about pointing out Jesus, and going full throttle to seek Him. Sometimes I get stuck standing with amazement staring up at the star.
Just like I was getting grumpy at those folks for being to amazed and excited and all that, I see that it is really that I need to deal with my own over-amazement, or having mercy on myself in it.
Or just bring it to Jesus like everything else.