I am surrounded by people who are applying to get in. Not only did they apply to get into Duke, but they are applying for internships and summer jobs, for work study positions and Greek life, for jobs and for financial aid. There are constant applications to get it, as if our entire life is spent on the outside. Who are the gatekeepers, regulating who gets in and who doesn’t in most of life. Aren’t these the people to really know? Or should we look more closely at the gate itself. What is the structure of the small aperture that allows us entrance to all that we seem to want in life?
The answer to that question would probably depend on what dimension of life we are really speaking about. And yet, might there be an answer that responds to all of life’s greatest desires – the one opening that permits us to enter into what our hearts truly desire in all of life? That is the heart of this Sunday’s Gospel. Jesus describes himself as the sheep gate – the one and only way to get in on the things that will most transform our lives. And yet, most people just don’t see Jesus that way. For most, there can’t be a meta-narrative that frames all of life – that would be too simple. But it is that simple, just not that easy.
Imagine if we had to apply to Jesus! Imagine if we had to prove our worthiness! Imagine if we had to outline credentials and present references! The beauty of this dynamic is that Jesus requires no such application process. Like the Father in the Prodigal Son, he sits waiting to welcome us (back) and then wants to celebrate our entrance in. It is we who make the application part hard, we who trip over ourselves by suggesting with our lives that we would really rather be somewhere else – that we may not want in just yet.
This Sunday is also World Day of Prayer for Vocations, a time to reflect on how God is calling men and women among us to serve as priests, religious, lay missionaries and members of apostolic communities. I often think of my own call and think of how flawed my own process was. If it relied solely on the merits of my own application, I don’t think I would have been found worthy. And yet the richness of my life as a Franciscan priest is beyond the scope of the few words of this column. I wonder though, if too many young men and women in the incessant application to “get in” to the right places, haven’t missed the call, the invitation of Jesus. “God couldn’t possibly want a Duke graduate to serve the Church – I have more important things to do.” Really? No offense taken. All the best getting in.
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