Christ keeps knocking until we are ready

This past weekend, His Excellency, Most Rev. Barry Knestout presided at his first Sunday mass at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart as the 13th bishop of Richmond. In his homily, His Excellency commented on the first reading — the call of Samuel — pointing out that there is both “invitation and response” at the heart of any authentic relationship with the Lord.

To illustrate Our Lord’s invitation, Bishop Knestout shared the image of how the installation ceremony first began: The bishop-designate “knocks” on the front door of his cathedral church — a beautiful symbol of our “hearts opening up to Christ.”

“The Lord does not overwhelm us, overpower us, or impose Himself on us,” Bishop Knestout said. “He knocks at the door so that we might open up to Him… He won’t bang down the doors. He will keep knocking until we are ready.

This last word struck me, because I think it reveals something very important about discerning a vocation — God won’t give up on us, even when we refuse to listen to Him. He keeps on knocking. He is persistent with us. He is patient, because He is a Father who loves us unconditionally and therefore desires us to respond in freedom to His invitation. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

We have no reason to be afraid!

Often when we are discerning our vocation — whether we feel called to the priesthood, marriage, or religious life — we can get really stressed out because we’re afraid that we’ll somehow “miss the signs” God is giving us. “What if I don’t understand? What if I miss something important? I’m not sure I’m ready to trust Jesus this much!”

In the face of all these fear-filled voices, Bishop Knestout boldly reminds us: God will “keep knocking until we are ready.” Therefore, we have no reason to be afraid or anxious!

Christ’s first word to the apostles after the Resurrection was “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19) Peace. It’s what we all desire, and it’s precisely what the Lord means to give us for all eternity. Therefore, we can take courage that God won’t abandon us, even if we’ve been reluctant to open up to His invitation of love. He’ll be with us no matter what! Saint Paul tells us that “if we are faithless, he remains faithful — for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13) In other words, God has already definitively and irrevocably chosen us, and He’s more than willing to wait patiently until we freely choose Him in return.

God hasn’t given up on me…

I’ve been in seminary now since Fall 2014, and if I claimed that I’ve been totally, completely, freely responsive to the Lord’s call ever since, I’d be a liar. At times, I’ve been more like the son who, when his father asks him to go work in the vineyard, says “I go, sir” and then simply doesn’t. (Matthew 21:30)

The reason I’m still in seminary formation today is the beautiful and enduring fact that God hasn’t given up on me. He has kept knocking at the door of my heart, and by His grace, I’ve kept moving forward towards the goal of my formation… ordination to the priesthood of Jesus Christ.

Photo Credit: Michael Mickle

The Lord waits patiently for us to respond

Perhaps this fact can be an encouragement for your own discernment as well — God will never give up on you, even when you feel reluctant or afraid to open up when He knocks. He will stand outside the door of your heart until you are ready — knocking patiently until that moment only the Lord in His perfect Providence can foresee. While this doesn’t give us permission to waste time or ignore God’s gracious call, it’s a reminder that the Lord is perfectly merciful towards us.

So let us cast out all fear and humbly ask for Christ’s help in responding to His will. He won’t force us to respond. He won’t pressure or manipulate us against our will. But He also won’t ever abandon us, nor will He ever stop drawing us into the Father’s embrace! For we have a Savior who is utterly faithful and relentlessly persistent in His love. All praise belongs to Him forever.