As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are a sent people. Catholic Mass in our western Latin Rite concludes with one of these four exhortations:
- Go forth, the Mass is ended. [In Latin, literally, “go, it is missa [sent]”–same origin as mission]
- Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.
- Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.
- Go in peace.
Common thread? Go.
But the moment we start to respond to God and go, there’s a gaping question–go what, Lord? In a world filled with choices related to relationships, work, family, service, and more, “Go” is certain, yet mystery. I know I’m supposed to “go,” Lord–but what should I do?
At our best, we want to choose correctly how we “go” because of our love for God and desire to be faithful to God’s will. We also know that God loves each of us more profoundly than anything we can imagine, and so following the will of this personally-loving God would be the most “right” thing any of us could choose to do.
But oh the decisions! How often when faced with a [seemingly] significant decision that strikes especially close to my call to follow Jesus as Lord, do I feel like the father who brings his son to Jesus for healing and is told, “Everything is possible to the one who has faith,” to which he cries out to Jesus, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:23-24). I trust in God, yet my worry belies a doubt. I want to “go,” but need the help of God to know where and trust in Him for direction.
Meeting Jesus in the midst of a decisions reveals our belief and unbelief–just as the father in the crowd so concisely and poignantly admitted to Jesus. Adapting the words of Leonard DeLorenzo, “contemplating how one aligns oneself with God’s will through the decisions and commitments one makes” can be a Spirit-filled action of a follower of Jesus. Yet my own unbelief is revealed when this contemplation is replaced by my, “own preoccupation with the various anxieties about having to make decisions for oneself and about oneself.”
This is the moment when the Lord speaks to us and asks, are you following my plan? Or following me?
It’s a convicting question. Far too often I pursue God’s plan in lieu of (or above of) my relationship with God. Judging by my thoughts and prayers, I want to know what God wants me to do, more than I want to know God personally–to grow in love, fellowship, and relationship with God as Father, Son, and life-giving Holy Spirit.
God comes before the plan. God is bigger than the plan. In fact, I should probably stop saying “the” plan, as if how to “go” is something set in stone that God is hiding from me that I need to find. An answer key to a test.
Speaking on his vocational discernment, Hans Urs Von Balthasar recalled being struck by this message on retreat:
[Y]ou do not have to choose anything, you have been called! You will not serve, you will be taken into service. You do not have to make plans of any sort, you are only a pebble in a mosaic prepared long before. (Scola, Hans Urs Von Balthasar: A Theological Style, p. 9)
We do not have to find the answer key. We must be open. Going, while being ready to go all the more.
The evangelist John uniquely captures this dynamic in Simon Peter as he follows Jesus. Peter knows that going starts with the person of Jesus. After doubts and debates surfaced following Jesus’ great Bread of Life teaching, Jesus asks the twelve disciples, “Do you also want to leave?” Peter answers, not concerned with what he might do [a plan], but centered on whom he could follow, stating plainly, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:67-68). At the foot-washing of the Last Supper, Peter asks Jesus where he is going, and is told, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later” (John 13:36). Peter receives neither a specific plan nor answer key for life’s decisions, but is simply given an assurance. An assurance that requires trust, not primarily in an idea or plan, but trust in a person. Even in the final chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus’ “plan” for Peter is hardly the detail-filled life map we’re often searching for. It’s still “Follow me” (John 21:18-19).
Let us go then. Keeping our eyes and hearts set on the Lord, we can go joyfully, free from earthly anxiety. Trusting that God wants to love us more and more every day in relationship. We can contemplate and make choices knowing that the perfect plan is not as important as the perfect Lord who sends us onward and outward.
a version of this post originally appeared at newevangelizers.com