by Father Jamin Scott David
Have you ever started a new job and felt like you didn’t have a clue what you were doing? I never have! Every single time I go into something new, I make sure that I’m not just prepared – I’m over prepared! I would obsess to “learn the ropes” so that I would feel like I knew what I was doing. When I teach the deacon candidates, I make sure that I study everything I possibly can just in case someone asks the inevitable, unexpected question.
But being a pastor is different. In a real sense, a pastor is like an entrepreneur trying to build a business to attract a niche market. On most Mondays, several priest friends gather in Baton Rouge for breakfast. We talk about church politics; we complain about you! But somewhere along the way, we always wind up at one common realization – none of us pastors know what we’re doing! We’re making it up as we go along. Like entrepreneurs, we’re always improvising and adapting; we’re not always sure what is or is not going to work. And we don’t have a clue about what strategies will make our churches thrive. We’re all in over our heads.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus calls those who are closest to him. But always remember that Jesus had many enemies, and they were skeptical of his claim that a new realm of freedom and justice was becoming a reality through him. Many looked around and saw a lack of peace and freedom and they likewise rejected Jesus’ message. In fact, many of them thought he was crazy or demon possessed. I even wonder if Jesus’ own disciples had this doubt.
Yet, in how he lives the Gospel, Jesus reminds them that when it comes to understanding how God’s kingdom works, we’re in it over our heads. We’re clueless! The realm of God that Jesus was talking about – this peace and freedom and justice – is really something that only God can create. We may find ways that are effective to bring people in, but the only source of lasting growth is God himself.
Does that mean we’re supposed to sit back and do nothing, praying that God will take care of it? First, I think we have to be willing to admit we’re in it over our heads. We’re dealing with matters that are beyond our understanding and abilities. But we also have to recognize that it’s our job to keep preserving and planting and tending the seeds of mercy, kindness and love. We keep planting even though we may never see results; we have to recognize that we many never know what comes from the seeds we plant. But they’re Gospel seeds – they will bear fruit in God’s way and time.
Jesus is really calling us to a faith that cannot know the outcome. We’re required to step out in faith to know that what we’re doing is right and will eventually bear fruit. It means looking beyond appearances, recognizing we’re in it over our heads, but persevering regardless with the knowledge that God is working in and through us constantly. And that’s true discipleship!