Obedience: How I Refused God’s Call and Experienced Grace
In today’s gospel Jesus relates the story of two brothers whose father issued orders to work in the vineyard. One bother initially refuses the command, yet later obeys. The other agrees to work, but goes back on his word.
Which son is more noble? Jesus recognizes the first.
This reading struck me hard today, as I have just recovered from several months of intense spiritual drought and darkness. You see, even during my initiation into the Church, all I ever desired was to serve at the altar of the Mass. My heart burned for the Eucharist and to assist the priest and deacon. There was no place I’d rather be.
I became an altar server after Easter Vigil, and soon my parish put me in charge of the servers. By no means did I desire this appointment, after all, I had only wanted one thing: being a server. I was not interested in leading or teaching others.
God however, does not plant joy in our hearts for a thing as a treasure to hoard, but as a grace to share.
With reticence, I accepted the task and began leading the servers. Nearly a year later of faithful service I felt another call seeping into my heart: service in the diaconate.
A deacon of the Catholic Church is an assistant ordained by the bishop to serve the entire diocese. He undergoes 5 years of intense formation and then lives a life of focused, selfless service to Christ and his Church.
I am an arrogant, prideful, solitary man by nature. The Church was already a challenge for me because it is not a Church of individuals, but a Bride for Christ, united in faith. Now I felt called to this ultimate sacrifice of my nature, another inch to kneel, another opportunity to decrease that Christ might increase.
And so I obeyed…initially. I turned in the paperwork, sought approval, but then fear of the sacrifice entered my heart and I eventually rescinded my application. I had become the son of today’s gospel who obeyed in word, but not in action.
Months passed and slowly my spiritual life waned and rusted, starved into a gradually apathy and emptiness that nearly cost my faith. Had God abandoned me? Was I alone?
“The pleasure which a man seeks in the gratification of his own inclinations is quickly changed into bitterness, and leaves nothing behind but the regret of having been ignorant of the secret of true beatitude and the way of the saints.” –Isidore of Seville
It was only in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and a providential talk on Advent given by our parish deacon that my faith was reawakened and restored. In a flash, I was struck by immense sorrow and a contrite heart. My God, what had I done?
Disobedience had separated me from Christ and his Church. Who was I to deny the call of God?
“You are my friends if you do what I command you.” –John 15: 14
And so today, I’ve written a letter to our bishop. Within, I’ve related this entire journey, begged forgiveness for refusing the call Christ and his Church, and asked for a second chance–if it be God’s will that I serve as deacon.
As a Catholic Christian, I abide by Scripture and Church teaching, and submit to the rule of the Church as guided by the Holy Spirit. Whatever the bishop’s decision, I will obey, because obedience to Christ and his Church is the avenue of grace.
“Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” –Hebrews 13: 17
I don’t deserve a second chance. I do not deserve to wear the dalmatic and the stole and serve Christ and his people, but grace is never about what we deserve, but about obedience toward God’s call for our lives.
Today, I’ve chosen to be the first son. Which will you be?by