"God has given us all a role to fulfill, it is for us to choose whether or not we do so."
Henry III was the Holy Roman Emperor in the middle of the 11thcentury, ruling parts of western and central Europe. His kingdom included Germany, Burgundy, Bohemia, and northern Italy as well as numerous smaller territories.
It is said that after a few years he became tired of court life and the pressures of being a monarch. Henry was known to be a man of faith and his intent was to retire to a life of contemplation and prayer. Accordingly he applied to the Prior of a local monastery to be accepted as a simple brother, living out the rest of his years as a monk.
The Prior had his doubts. “Your Majesty, the life of a monk is one of obedience. That will be hard for you to accept as a king.”
“I understand,” replied the king, “I place myself under obedience to your authority. For the rest of my life I will be obedient to you, as Christ leads you.”
The Prior nodded, “Then I will tell you what you must do. Go back to your throne and serve faithfully in the place God has put you.”
Henry was as good as his word, he returned to his throne and ruled wisely and benevolently for many years. History remembers him as Henry the Pious. When King Henry died in the Year of Our Lord, 1056, a statement was released. “The king learned to rule, by being obedient.”
In today’s Gospel we hear of Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth. At this precise moment the Old Covenant intertwines with the New. Elizabeth will give birth to the last of the old covenant prophets; Mary will give birth to the fulfillment of all prophecies.
The amazing thing about this encounter is that the presence of the unborn children is just as powerful as the presence of the mothers. John the Baptist leaps for joy while he is still in Elizabeth’s womb, as soon as Jesus who is still in Mary’s womb, enters the room. Even before they are born the children are fulfilling their mission. Their God-given purpose, their calling is already at work in them.
Each of has a calling from God, and each of us have been given gifts to realize that calling. There are no exceptions, and there are no unimportant gifts. Everyday we are faced with a choice. Will we be obedient to God’s will and to use our gifts and fulfill our call, or will we turn from Him and go our own way? Everyday we are faced with the same choice Adam faced in the garden. When we tire or our roles and responsibilities, it may help to recall that God has placed us in the present moment and called us to be a good teacher, or mother, or father, or artist. Christ expects us to be faithful in the role He has placed us. It is for us to choose to be obedient or disobedient.
This choice is made more difficult by our fallen nature, the pull of the secular world, and the workings of the devil. Due to Original Sin, we are attracted to both good and evil, often at the same time. Theologians calls this concupiscence. In addition, the secular world is convinced that we can get along just fine without God. And finally, the Devil plays upon both these elements to drive a wedge between us and God urging us further into the wrong choices.
Artists and creatives are perhaps particularly susceptible to this disordered trinity. As we struggle to fulfill our vocation and support our families we are often faced with the choice of accepting a commission that does not reflect our values, in order to feed our families and pay our bills; or reject the commission and run the risk of imposing suffering on our loved ones. It does not help that the secular world seems to value work that celebrates the demonic and pornographic and sinful over work that celebrates virtue and humility, and charity.
But answering God's call to fulfill our vocation often involves sacrifice. We are all given gifts to enlarge the kingdom of God. To serve our brother and sisters by bringing them back to Him. Sometimes this means we sacrifice for the sake of the Kingdom. But whether we choose to do so is always up to each if us.
And as Advent draws to a close, our time to make that choice grows shorter.
During this time we celebrate the coming of the Lord in may ways. We celebrate His incarnation in Bethlehem, the Word of God taking on human flesh. We celebrate His coming into the hearts of everyone who accepts Him. And we celebrate His coming at the end of time when He will make all things new. At that time He will judge the choices we have made. Are we ready? Have we prepared? Have we followed the example of our Blessed Mother and the divine Son, and said yes to our calling? Or have we neglected our calling by indulging in our own selfish whims and desires?
Advent is out time of testing. It is our time of preparation. It is our time of joy. And it is our time to choose.
4thSunday in Advent.
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 and can be reached at Lawrence@deaconlawrence.com