Written by the other Sherry
The world is a mess. It is charged with amazing beauty, but also broken in countless big and little ways. Some are huge, like war and famine, poverty and disease, crime and injustice and environmental degradation. Some are smaller, but may loom even larger because they are closer to home: a friend or neighbor or family member, or even ourselves, battling cancer or mental illness or joblessness or frustration – or despair. And we know such suffering is multiplied many times over in the lives of people all around us, sitting next to us in the pews or walking the street outside.
Where is God in all this? And, perhaps more important, what is God doing about all this?
God has already done something amazing: he has come among us, taken on the human condition in all its limitedness and suffering by actually becoming one of us, a human being like us in every way but one: sin. He taught, and healed, and announced the Kingdom of God. And he drank the cup of suffering, all the brokenness of the world, to the dregs, all the way to the bottom on the Cross. There is no one who can say, anymore, “God doesn’t know what this feels like.” Because He does. He has literally walked in our shoes.
But God has done more than that; he has risen again, triumphed over death itself, and shared his very Life with us in the sacraments of encounter with the risen Jesus that he has given us, so that we need never be alone or unable to face whatever it is we have to face. And he has given us the destiny of sharing forever in that triumphant life with him in Heaven, where every sorrow earth has to offer is answered and healed by unending, limitless joy, haunted by no fears or shadows or shame.
But it doesn’t stop there. God has done even more. He hasn’t just offered us his life, his healing. He hasn’t just promised us Heaven when it is all over. He has commissioned us and sent us into the world in his name, here and now, to continue the work of restoration that he has begun, in all the places where we are. All of creation is to be restored to its original dignity, and he has made us his partners in this great work of redeeming and restoration.
Our vocation is our own personal path to the limitless joy that God offers – a path that will both heal and fulfill us, and make us channels through which God’s healing and restoration will reach the world around us, in ways we may not even be able to imagine. A vocation is a unique work of love to which God calls us, which only we can do. If we say no, if we don’t do it, it won’t get done. Some part of the creation, some people beloved by God will not encounter what God intends to give them without our cooperation. God will not save us without us; he will not save the world without us. Our part matters.
Now, looking within ourselves, we may object that we can’t possibly be the sort of people that God wants to do things. We’re too sinful, too broken, too ignorant, too proud, too fearful, too weak, too unreliable. Like St. Peter, we want to tell him: “Go away, Lord, I am a sinful man.” Like Jeremiah, even when God Himself tells us that we have a special destiny, a particular mission that he has selected for us, we want to plead incompetence and be excused.
But Jesus doesn’t leave Peter there; he tells him not to be afraid. And he tells us, too: don’t be afraid. I am with you. I have equipped you, and you will never face what I send you to without my help.