Seventeen years ago this very day, I turned a page in my life's journey that changed me forever. It was the day I received the sacrament of Holy Orders and was ordained to the permanent diaconate of the Roman Catholic Church. It is one of the most pivotal moments of my life. It was and is still one of the proudest moments of my life.
After all is said and done, it is also one of the most sobering and maturing events of my life. Everything that transpired in the preparation for accepting the office and everything I experienced during the five years I executed that office has indeed influenced my spiritual growth and my relationship with God. The entire experience, still being lived out, has brought me a deep level of appreciation for everything that has come into my life since. Without this, I don't know - and don't wish to know - what I might have become.
I was the center of my own universe back then. I was going to have my cake, and eat it, too. I thought I was going to rise above myself, and proved that it's not possible before you are plunged to as deep as you can stand. Only then do you realize that God must be in the details, and only then can God raise you up. Then you realize that the cake you eat as your daily bread is only yours because God has provided it.
In my innocence, or naivete, or both, I once thought that the Church, as God's legacy upon the earth, had all the answers to ensure your ticket on the road that leads to heaven was properly validated. What God has ultimately taught me since is indeed a blessing. No, the Church doesn't have all the answers, something of which the better leaders will tell you if you pause long enough to listen; although there are an equal number of leaders who will still make every attempt to place her as the ultimate spiritual authority on Earth. No matter how many or few 'I's are dotted or 'T's are crossed, God wants you to come to those understandings about Him one-on-one.
I've also been blessed by God with the understanding that His providence is eternally abundant, even when I can't see it. On the other side of the fence, there are numerous examples that God's 'franchisees' - the hundreds of religious denominations that fall under the general umbrella of Christianity, those who claim Jesus Christ at the core of their beliefs - do not understand the importance of demonstrating, in a real and direct way, the abundance with which God gives freely.
As an example, I was following the semi-continuous reading of passages from the Acts of the Apostles; particularly chapter 6, in which is detailed the origin and establishment of the diaconate:
As the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews
because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution (of food).
So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said,
“It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table.
Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom,
whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer
and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:1-4, NAB, emphasis mine)
I am thankful that this statement is not attributed to Peter alone, but to the Apostles as a whole. I want to believe there was more than just casual discussion over the issue, because the joint statement and decision of the Twelve seems to have forgotten just how Jesus went about doing things. Not only did he clearly take on the role of servant by feeding multitudes on five loaves of bread and two fish, and setting the standard for the sacred meal that most Christians celebrate with regularity, he also reduced himself to washing the feet of those same Apostles. Seems like they forgot about that somehow, and that's sad. I get the feeling it set the precedent for all those gatherings of what I call the "Old Boys' School", where there is often great debate, perhaps a hefty amount of prayer, but the ultimate result is that nothing gets done to further the single great commandment Jesus left his Apostles: that they love one another as he loved them.
That notwithstanding, I am trying to be a bit more cognizant of my own ability to 'change the world', as it were. In a recent post I wrote that my wife had asked me to consider getting back into the active ministry. The horse I'd fallen from twelve years ago is still there; in fact, I realize that I've been walking alongside it for most of the time. There are many things that would have to take place to reconcile the events that led to my fall. It will take time, in terms of years, to reach that point, if I can do so. This time, if it is to happen, it will mean first to discern the place and scope of where and how God will direct my steps. It will mean assuring that I extend God's blessings to my loved ones to the fullest extent possible. It means now more than ever to consider those who are near their own depths, and to pray that God raises them up as only He can.
Then, after looking both ways and acknowledging my lingering imperfections, I will cross that bridge if it is meant to be.