In this weekend’s Gospel reading (Mark 1.9-15), Jesus is Baptized, spends forty days in the wilderness, and then begins his ministry preaching in Galilee… all in five verses! You have to love how Mark gets right to the point about who Jesus is!
As I was thinking about this particular passage, I was struck by how much it feels like a typical pattern in my own life: being moved or called by the Spirit to do something; spending time in the wilderness struggling with and preparing for whatever the Spirit is moving me to do; and then living out that call.
In the late Nineties, I found myself feeling very uncomfortable in life. I knew in my heart I was being called to something new; being nudged by the Spirit to do something different. I had been praying for a couple of years for clarity about what this new call might be, but I was not having any luck figuring it out. So, on December 31, 1999 – the eve of a new millennium – I walked into church and prayed, “Look, God… I’ve been trying to understand what You want me to do with my life, but I just can’t figure it out. So, I’m done. If You want me to do something different with my life, you’re going to have to make it much clearer for me.”
What I didn’t know then, that I know now, is how dangerous this kind of prayer can be! On Jan. 2, 2000, I walked into work and was laid off. After laughing my way out to my car, I screamed out to the heavens, “Okay, God… We both know I am being called to something else but I think I liked it better when you were being more subtle about it!”
That employment layoff ended up being the final push I needed to discern my current vocation. In some ways, that layoff was a “baptism” into a new life for me. And, like in this weekend’s Gospel, it was followed by a significant time in the wilderness. While God had, not so subtly, answered by prayer, I was faced with all the challenges of unemployment and no idea where to go or what to do next.
However, this wilderness period – this time of discernment – was also absolutely critical for me to clarify, and eventually name, my call to pastoral ministry. Not only that, this wilderness time helped give me the courage and strength to live into my call; a call I continue to live into today.
Lent begins this week, and it’s a great time to reflect on our own Baptism and how we are being moved or nudged to live out our Baptismal call. Are we living out our Baptismal call to love our neighbors as ourselves? Do our actions build more walls or more bridges in the world? Do our lives reflect the Kingdom of God in the here and now? And, are we regularly sharing the Good News with others?
My prayer this Lent is that it will be a time to reflect on our Baptismal call; a time to reflect on how we become the Good News for others – even if it takes some wilderness time to figure it out, because the world desperately needs more Christians living into our call to love and serve others.
The “Building Bridges, Building Hope” blog is written by Susie Tierney, Executive Director, of the Center for Social Ministry. Susie hopes the blog will encourage others to be “bridge-builders” in this politically divisive time, and will promote dialogue and common ground-thinking. To sign up to receive our “Building Bridges, Building Hope” blog click here.