Life's No Accident
When I was five years old my parents took me to the mall. I don’t remember if I had ever been to the mall before, but in those days a trip to the mall was a big deal. In fact, we went to Columbia Mall, which was quite a drive from our home in west Baltimore. My sister would have been 3 or 4 years old, and my brother would have been an infant. It was probably a production to simply dress us and get us into the car. I do remember the excitement to be taking this special trip.
When we got there (after an eternal drive, it seemed to me), we entered Hutzler’s, and in my excitement, I “made haste”; I ran into the store.
Right into a clothes rack, and then flat out on the floor.
Mom and dad had to revive me as I cried, and we all turned right around and got back into the car to head home. That’s the first trip to the mall that I remember, and it’s not a flattering story.
When was the last time that you “made haste”? Was it expected? Was it accidental? We have a lot of advice about haste in our culture: “Haste makes waste,” we might say; or “Don’t be hasty”; or even, “Haste is of the Devil,” as St. Jerome once said.
But today we find Mary travelling to the hill country in haste to see her kinswoman Elizabeth. What about that haste? Mary doesn’t trip or run into any clothing racks. Rather, she reaches her destination and shares some wonderful news. Her haste is rewarded. Why?
Mary has a purpose – unlike five-year-old little Austin in the department store. She knows what God’s plan is for her and for the world and therefore she has direction. There is no need for her to dally or wait to do anything. Knowing who she is and what God has asked of her – and knowing that she is going to do it – Mary can travel quickly to share her joy with someone else who also knows her purpose and God’s plan. When there two women meet, the grace is tangible. The infant in Elizabeth’s womb leaps for joy in the presence of the Lord, and the two women rejoice in God’s amazing work.
It is this purposefulness that gives Mary direction, focus, and yes, haste. She can go quickly because she has found the meaning of her life; and she has found it in God’s loving plan for her and the world. This is what it means to pursue a vocation. Mary’s journey is no accident; it is not haphazard or unplanned. She knows exactly what she is doing because God is guiding her.
In our world, often we go through life without direction. Sometimes we feel lost; other times we are simply lazy and just “go with the flow.” Neither of these attitudes will help us discover the meaning of life or true happiness. We need to take a lesson from Mary and Elizabeth today. They listened to what God laid out of His plan for them, and with faith and trust they followed His call.
Mary and Elizabeth’s stories – their vocations – are connected. But here’s the beautiful thing: so are ours! We are connected to their stories, to one another, and to God; because this is all God’s plan. If we want to find true happiness and meaning in our lives, we need to get up and look for Him. He is looking for us.
We cannot go through our lives lazily – allowing the currents of the world and our culture to push us here and there and then to eventually settle into whatever we happen to be doing. Instead, as baptized disciples, we need to be tuned to God’s will for us, always seeking to know what He has planned for us and praying for the courage and wisdom to do that will. For young people, I always encourage them to pray to know what their vocation is and to ask God for the courage to be able to follow it. Taking Mary as an example, when we spend time prayerfully listening to God’s voice, we learn what it is that He wants. He reveals His wonderful and loving plan, and this fills us with joy. Our lives have meaning – they are not mere accidents!
When we set out in haste without a plan, we end up running into a clothes rack. When we don’t do anything and just allow the current of the world and time to carry us, we end up feeling hopeless. However, when we open ourselves to the plan that God has prepared, we find true meaning and joy. Let’s imitate Mary. Let’s know God’s perfect love and purposefully and joyfully follow Him.