Here we are at Jubilee, rejoicing and marveling at 10 years, and 25 years, and 50 years, and God’s boundless faithfulness. I’ve been thinking about vocation, and call and response, so here are some stories, of us and of God, that might plumb the mystery, which of course does not promise us more clarity….
A friend of mine, young in religious life and struggling with community and her ministry, came home from teaching Saturday catechism class and was dutifully attending to her charge, the community bathroom. She was putting newspaper down on the floor, and the page opened to the wedding section. She immediately recognized a friend from high school, looking beautiful in her bridal finery, walking out of the chapel at West Point arm in arm with her spouse splendid in his dress uniform, under an arch of swords. And she said to herself, “I really blew it.”
Much later in life, she had a chance to see two old friends, long separated by time and space, and my friend told them this story.
They all had a good laugh, and one of them said, “O My! Well wait till you hear this!
It was four years into our marriage, and life was so hard. My husband lost his job, we had 3 children under 4, and bills were piling up, we were falling behind in our mortgage payments, and I was totally a quivering mess. One evening the parish had a potluck supper in the grade school cafeteria, with all the kids and the noise, and the metal chairs scraping, and I glanced over and in a room off to the side I saw the sisters from the grade school around their table, and they were talking and laughing and enjoying their meal and one another, and I said to myself, “Oh, I really blew it!”
Would this possibly resonate at all with you, in various moments of your Dominican life? Moments when your heart was just not so set on “Be it done unto me…”?
Have you said to yourself or a friend or an (often) shrouded or opaque God, after making a tough decision, or a loss, or changing a ministry, or losing your “cool” in a meeting, or saying something hurtful to someone dear—
“Oh, did I blow it!?”
In these dark and confusing times when the country and the world are beset by hatreds and wars and so many little ones are suffering, and –well, you know the never-ending litany of woes—when we see how we have despoiled and poisoned Earth our Mother in this time being called the “sixth extinction;” when we see genocide and forced migration, and we are outraged and saddened and feeling both guilty and helpless amid this oh so huge and daily and casual evil – we can yield to cynicism and the temptation to withdraw from the words and actions of protest and healing.
When it is so obvious that humanity has blown it—we start asking ourselves about the best way to be faithful to our Dominican charism, and wonder whether we’re choosing the right path as witnesses, as women and men of right action and truth-speaking, and ask again the nagging question: “Are we truly faithful individually and corporately, or have we missed something crucial somewhere along the line? Have we blown it?
Are we responding to the dual call of our OP roots and the call of the future?”
These are all moments of our vocation, an ongoing medley of call and response—God’s call to us, ours toward God, God toward us— and we learn (again and again!) that whatever surety we thought we had—however confident we are that God agrees with us– eventually get blown!
But our wrong turns and illusions are themselves paths to growth, however painful.
I did say growth.
And here is the reason: We blow it and GOD BLOWS BACK!
As Isaiah 55 puts it: God’s word is faithful. “It will not return to me empty but will accomplish what I sent it to do.”
And the breath of God—Spirit, Ruah—still hovers over the deepness, the darkness, the unknowns—some 13 billion years since the exploding of creation. And the Spirit continues to breathe life and promise and memory and strength and the fire of love.
The Spirit: who is still Sophia, Wisdom, playing before God in creation, and who is still and always a surprise, and provides another learning for us that “God’s ways are not our ways” and that we are painfully prone to keeping God at our size and manageable or agreeable to our dictates.
We have the Word, the Breath, breezing among us, and steadily growing us, enlarging our hearts, making of every ”We really blew it” a profound occasion for becoming what we receive—Words of God— very human, very flawed, but more and more identifiable with and hospitable to every human being who like us, “Blows it”–.
Becoming, each of us, a breath of the Spirit– imperfect Words, incomplete Love, yes, but through whom Christ never ceases to pour himself out, and in whom the Spirit never ceases to simmer.
And we are Words of memory and promise that God is faithful, and as Catherine of Siena wrote,” Mad with love for your creatures.” All this as we go on blowing it and giving God great delight in blowing back, blowing holes in our hearts, making space in our lives even as we might be mourning our failure, our confusion, our barrenness.
Here is the Mystery: that in our turns and tumbles, massive and minor, we are actually helping God form us in “The breadth and the length and the height and the depth of the Love of Christ which is beyond all understanding that we may be filled with the utter fullness of God.”
And in ways we don’t understand or notice, become preachers, become lovers, become Living Words.
So we gather as we grow, and celebrate together in wisdom and grace and joy and jubilation because as we “blow it”
God’s breath, Ruah, Spirit blows back –and in and around and among and through us, blowing all God’s people toward unity in love.
GLORY to God whose power/love/breath/ Peace
working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine