There is little doubt, then, that the disciple will spend the greater part of his time and effort, not ‘doing God’s work’, but simply in yielding to the work God wants to do in him. No one can be a disciple without first being a contemplative. The heart of Jesus’ intention in choosing his followers is that they might be with him: above all, Jesus wants to share his life with us, and this too—the longing to be with Jesus—should be the gravitational pull to which all our desires should hasten….
The Way of the Disciple, Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis
This reminder of the true order of life is necessary as I near the end of the semester and as I consider my role as a high school teacher. The most important thing is not doing more but in being in the transformative presence of Our Lord. St. Teresa of Calcutta spent hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I heard it said that when they were overwhelmed with work, she would instruct the sisters to spend more time in prayer, not less. She knew her littleness and her dependence on God in a tangible way, enabling her to acknowledge her limits and radical need for God.
In college, I had a taste of short-term missionary work as I participated in a mission trip every spring break. I loved seeing how the Lord provided for us in the midst of mission and the experience of going out to preach the Gospel was enlivening. While we offered different assistance to people, I discovered that much of the fruit of the mission was the internal change in me. Simplicity had a more beautiful sound as I encountered people in extreme poverty who were filled with great joy. There was a greatness found in traveling, meeting others, and sharing the joy of the Gospel with them.
It is a greatness that I desire to find in every mission. As a missionary of the classroom, it is easy to lose sight of the goal. Students turn in late work, homework/tests must be graded, schedules must be followed, and the list of responsibilities goes on. In the chaos, it takes very little for the mission to become a job and the job to become “just get through today” and so on. Instead, I desire to view my work as long-term missionary work. I’ve been in the trenches for over five years and I must strive to remember that I have really good news to proclaim to everyone, attentive or not. And, what I’m probably the worst at, I am called to serve my co-missionaries and be a witness of Christ to them.
When my little heart wants to fly off to Honduras or New York City for a missionary experience, I remind myself that I am already in a mission field. All around me are souls hungering and thirsting for truth. If I am to embrace this mission field, it becomes necessary to embrace my role as a contemplative. The requirement of “yielding to the work God wants to do in” me is one I want to skip but is crucial to this missionary role.
The most important thing isn’t being in the mission field. The most important thing is being in union with Christ. If I want to go out and do God’s will, I need to be near Him, to rest my head on His chest so I can align my heart with the beat of His heart. Then I can be sent because I will know the voice of the Lord and will know His will for the moment. Jesus, the Son of God, often stepped away for moments of quiet prayer. If God Himself took time to be with the Father, how much more is it necessary for me to do the same.
My desire for greatness, my desire for a mission, my desire to do the Lord’s will should all spring from the desire to be in union with God. The Creator of the Universe became incarnate so as to be a companion to humans, to walk beside us, to share life with us. As we approach the end of the liturgical year, let us seek to fulfill our deepest desire of union with God. And in doing so, may this overflow into our ministries, our lives, and our fellow pilgrims in life.