There'll Be Days Like These

I could be a lawyer right now. Before I was in seminary, I worked for an attorney in Arbutus, MD, as a legal assistant – spending a good part of my day arguing with insurance companies and trying to help our clients settle their personal injury and workers’ compensation cases. After I left, my former boss said he held some hope that I would go to law school and eventually join him in practice.

But that wasn’t to be.

A couple years later, I recall trudging through the cobblestone streets of Rome on the way home from class on a rainy afternoon. As yet another Fiat skidded by me, soaking my shoes in puddle water, I thought to myself, “I could be a lawyer right now. … probably starting a family.”

But that wasn’t to be.

As I returned home to seminary and changed into some dry socks, I picked up my Breviary and prayed; and again, God’s love for me returned to the forefront and I remembered why I was there. I was doing what I was doing because I truly believed that God called me to it. I had experienced the intense love and mercy of Jesus in my own life, and I knew that I had to share that same love and mercy as a priest.

And I still feel that way.

I still feel that way, even when the air conditioning malfunctions; I still feel that way when the water bill comes in at $5,000; I still feel that way when I run between two campuses and a school; I still feel that way in the midst of complaints about their daughter’s wedding, or their child’s baptism, or their expectations of me as a pastor.

Amos the prophet, whom we hear this morning, understands me, I think. Today, he is getting bombarded with complaints from Amaziah, who doesn’t like what the prophet has to say. Amaziah wants Amos to say and do what he wants him to do – so that his life can be comfortable and easier. He is used to paying prophets’ salaries and having them simply do his bidding and maintain the status quo. Life would even be easier for Amos.

But that wasn’t to be.

In the face of Amaziah’s criticism of him –“Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah! There earn your bread by prophesying, but never again prophesy in Bethel!” – Amos stays firm in his vocation: “I was no prophet,nor have I belonged to a company of prophets;I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. The LORD took me from following the flock, and said to me,Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”

In other words, “You may not like what I have to say – you may not agree with me or this message – but I am not doing this for my own health or amusement. This is God’s work, and I’m doing it anyway.”

As disciples, we are sometimes called to fulfill the prophet’s mission. We are sent – like the Twelve whom Jesus sends today – not in our own name, and not to satisfy people who pay us or agree with us. Instead, we need to remain open to God’s will in our lives and respond to that will, even when it is hard, even when it is thankless. Our call to be missionary disciples is one that will lead us to places and people who will resist us; but we are called to go anyway. The virtue that drives the prophet is courage, and it comes directly from God’s Holy Spirit. You and I share that mission, we share that courage, we share that vocation.

As I sat in my warm room in seminary, feeling God’s love for me in the form of warm, dry socks, I knew that there would be days like those. I still experience them. However, in the midst of that frustration and weariness, it is prayer that reminds me of the invisible workings of God’s grace. Praise God for that grace!

Yes, I could’ve been a lawyer. I could’ve been many things – and been good at them. However, in the end, God has given us all this life, and how we respond to His love is all that matters. Let’s go out as prophets, to tell others about that tremendous grace!

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