“Perhaps our greatest desire, often unexpressed, is to be at peace.”
There is an old story about a king who had the habit of dressing in a disguise, mounting his horse and riding out late at night to survey his kingdom without all the attention and panoply that usually accompanied him.
On his nightly excursions he would frequently see a man standing naked under a tree. The king would pass the tree at different times and different days of the week, but always he saw the same man standing under the tree in the same manner.
Finally he approached the man one night and asked him what he was doing. The man replied that he was guarding a great treasure which required constant watchfulness. The king asked what this treasure was and the man told the king it was something deep inside him, and the more he became aware of it the deeper he reached inside himself.
The king was so impressed by this answer he invited the man to the palace as an advisor to the king. The man immediately accepted, mounted the king's horse and made the king walk beside him back to the palace. There he lived in a state of luxury greater even than the king himself.
After a while the king began to suspect that he was being conned. Finally he confronted the man. “I found you naked under a tree, having renounced everything in the world. But now you live in luxury. What is the difference between us?”
“For the answer to that, O king,” said the man, “you must follow me.”
And so the two rode out of the palace gates and continued until they reached the borders of the kingdom. There the king stopped and said he could go no farther, for he could not enter the kingdom of another.
“There is the difference between us,” said the man, taking off his fine clothes. “All places are the same to me, you have a kingdom, I do not. Wherever I stand, there is my kingdom. Naked I was, naked I am. There are so many trees, I can stand anywhere.”
It is said that events belong to God, how we respond to them belongs to us. Our challenge is to be at peace, regardless of the events around us.
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus gives us many signs by which we will know that the “End of Days” is imminent. But finally He reminds us that we cannot know the exact day, only the Father knows that.
For two thousand years many have claimed to know the date of the end of the world. They have all been wrong. This should not surprise us. And even though it sometimes seems as if the world is in such a state that the end must surely be near, God Himself has told us that we cannot calculate the day or the hour.
But it isn’t really important that we know. What is important is that we accept God, and trust in him, regardless of the fortunes the world brings us or takes away from us.
One of the many stories told about St. Francis of Assisi recounts a day when he was interrupted from his gardening by one of his brothers.
“Brother Francis, if you knew that today was the Day of Judgment, and that the Lord would come at any moment, what would you do?”
And without hesitation Saint Francis replied,
“I would finish my gardening.”
Perhaps our greatest desire, often unexpressed, is to be content, to be so at peace with ourselves and our God that we can stand anywhere and be at home, to be able to continue our gardening even as all things of this world come to an end.
The key to finding that contentment, is to find the vocation God is calling you to and embrace it with your whole heart.
Choosing to follow your vocation is not always an easy path. If you are called to be an artist, a writer, a singer, and so on, you choose a path that more often than not does not come with a steady paycheck. The call that is important in the eyes of God is not always the one that reaps financial rewards. But ignoring the call will only leave us dissatisfied, longing to fill a hole in our hearts.
There is a peace and contentment that is known only by answering that call. Only by becoming the person God meant for you to be can you know the freedom that allows you to stand anywhere and be in your own kingdom.
Yes it can be scary, because we put our trust completely in something beyond our control. Blind skiers are first taught how to turn left and right on a shallow slope. Then they ski down a steep slope accompanied by a sighted skier who calls out to them “left” or “right.” The blind skier reaches the safety of the bottom of the slope by trusting in the guidance of a person they cannot see. Our lives are like that. We navigate through the world by listening to the voice in our hearts that comes from one we cannot see.
Our greatest guide in answering God's call, to living a contented life because we trust ourselves completely to Him, is a conscience that is well formed in faith.
If we choose life, and He who is life itself, we should not be apprehensive about the end. We can trust in the promises made to us, that if we live as the Lord has commanded us to, if we are always ready, we need not fear.
Pontifex University is an online university offering a Master’s Degree in Sacred Arts. For more information visit the website at www.pontifex.university
Lawrence Klimecki, MSA, is a deacon in the Diocese of Sacramento. He is a public speaker, writer, and artist, reflecting on the intersection of art and faith and the spiritual “hero’s journey” that is part of every person’s life. He maintains a blog at www.DeaconLawrence.org