Truth be told, I love an invitation to celebrate with anyone who is seeking to join the church. As a cradle Catholic, sometimes I envy the experience of those who have an impactful, dramatic conversion story—at least one in which they played a role. I am an emotional mess at Easter Vigil as I witness the humility and desire on the faces and in the posture of the elect who are actively responding to their invitation (even more so, if I have been lucky enough to learn about that journey in some way).
On the other hand, I treasure the fact that I was claimed for Christ long before I was able to do it for myself. I am grateful for the grace, the guides I’ve been given, and the foundation ‘ever ancient, ever new’ that lays too-big a framework, one that necessitates growing into. Being on the lookout for the Reign of God which is already present and not yet come is a lot to ask of anyone—infant or otherwise. The two baptismal experiences are distinct, one no better than another, yet we each have a conversion that is constantly at work within us whether we have grown up in a church or have been ignited with new zeal.
Matthew’s Gospel today is also about timing and not knowing what (or whom) is coming. St. Matthew urges his audience to ‘stay awake’ through the not knowing, when we will be called upon to welcome the Christ— in hopes that we might be found attending diligently to both the invitations we have received and the vocations we have been called to. Sometimes this means the less glamorous long-haul, other times it means immediate readiness.
Today is the day I was baptized 33 years ago. I remember nothing of it, and feel a little disappointed about that. I have of course heard stories about it and have been to the church since then. To my delight and amusement, my dear college friend (and once fellow environmental studies major), is now the Pastor of that parish.
But that was before I honestly came to terms with the gifts I had been given and the course load I should be taking, and how perhaps I was meant to be engaging with more people—fewer trees. Before my heart had been broken by folks living on the margins, and before I worked in young adult ministry or began writing, or raising babies.
Aren’t these sorts of discoveries exactly what is meant by the phrase: “God draws straight with crooked lines?” My priest friend is a campout-leading, bee-keeping pastor in the North woods—two charisms, one fiat. Seemingly dormant seeds planted, geminate right on time. (Whether or not we are aware). These are the details or our stories, and all of them are laden with significance.
We know it isn’t about whose got great stories; only how we live the stories we have been given. The Christian person should be in a continual state of conversion, or we run the risk of becoming stale, irrelevant. Sometimes the most intriguing stories of conversion are of those who have been plodding along faithfully and have come to a different/deeper/more specific place of living than the one from which they began.
Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!
Tonight over dinner I will re-light the candle, the light of Christ, given to me to be kept burning; a practice I’ve only recently begun. I will marvel with the knowledge that I have been claimed and that my participation in this faith story is asked of me as actively today as it was 33 years ago. There is no passivity in this invitation—there never was.