Desiring Our True Inheritance
Desires - we all have them. We experience their driving power within us and their ability to motivate us each and every day. Some of our desires we inherit from our family and friends, while others are just a unique part of who God created us to be. Regardless of how they are shaped in us, our desires are what motivate us while working towards a goal. Without our desires, what would drive us forward?
Our desires were placed in our hearts by God. When He created us, He had one goal in mind: to enjoy eternal life with Him in heaven. This is our promised inheritance. He also planned out a specific path for each of us to reach this inheritance: our vocation. Our desires are not contrary to this vocation. They are what make us passionate, zealous, and joyful in this life! The desires of our hearts drive us forward on the path God has called us to live, leading us into our divine and final inheritance.
The difficulty is that we are sinful and sinfulness radically changes how we listen to our desires. We sometimes fail to acknowledge that there may be more to be desired than just the paths and destinations that we see. Although our own plans may seem noble, sin means that we can fail to recognize that God's plans may be different to our own.
Having grown up in a large family, I developed a deep desire to be a father from a very young age. Watching the way my own father lovingly sacrificed so much of himself for us made me desire to do the same in my own life. I wanted to be like him: loving, passionate, humble, and happy. Throughout high school, especially as I prepared to head off to college, I would plan out how I was going to make my desire to be a father a reality. I had planned to study hard, earn a degree, marry a wonderful woman, land a successful job, and eventually raise my own large Catholic family. To me, this seemed like a holy and righteous plan, so it had to be what I was called to do with my life!
As it turns out, God had a different plan. Being convinced that I was supposed to be a father, you can imagine my surprise when I first felt called toward the priesthood. I couldn't believe it. How could this be? How could I be asked to give up everything that I had desired for as long as I could remember? Was I supposed to reject what I felt in my heart, entirely disregarding my desire to be the father of a beautiful family? I wrestled for months with what path I should choose. In the end, I felt that I was called to pursue the priesthood, so I entered the seminary. I didn't quite understand it all, but I had come to see something very clearly: I had to let go of the idea that the plan that I had created for my life was the only way that I was going to be happy and fulfilled. Though it had seemed like a holy and noble goal to raise a good Catholic family, it was also possible that God was asking something else of me.
God doesn't want us to be unhappy or unfulfilled. What loving father desires that for his children? Actually, He desires us to be completely happy and fulfilled, and has created us with that as our inheritance. Our final goal is to be united with our Heavenly Father, by whom and for whom we were created. Without Him, our desires will never be completely fulfilled because they all ultimately stem from a desire for God Himself. It is towards God that our desires are leading us.
The difficulty, as we have already seen, is that we are in a fallen and sinful state. This state of sin really messes with our ability to see things as God sees them. In our limited vision, we fail to recognize that our promised inheritance is beyond our earthly life, and instead, we attempt to seek our own fulfillment here on earth. Instead of trusting that God is in control and will us to our promised inheritance, we give in to our confused desires for earthly happiness and try to create our own plan for their fulfillment. This is something we all do, and this is exactly what I had done. I had created an idea of how I was supposed to lead my life based on the desires I had in my heart to be a father, but had not considered that God may have a plan bigger and more complex than I could imagine.
I have been in seminary for just under four years, and it has been an incredible journey. There are many things I have learned during my time in formation, but the one that has most profoundly struck me is that my desire for fatherhood was not all together wrong, and was not ignored by God. In fact, my desire for fatherhood has grown and developed, but in a way that is different than I could have ever imagined. As I have grown in understanding of the priesthood, I have recognized that the desire in my heart is a desire to be a father as a priest.
Priests have a particular role as spiritual fathers to the members of the Church. Their lives are given to help others to grow in faith. Just as I had been inspired as a young boy by the loving sacrifices of my own father, I have experienced a similar inspiration witnessing the sacrifice and love that is present in the life of a priest. Undoubtedly, the fatherhood of a priest and the fatherhood of a family father are different, but they do share similarities. I now see that the desires of my heart were given to me for priestly fatherhood, not the fatherhood I had imagined. Where I had been mistaken was that I didn't believe that my desire for fatherhood could in fact be leading me toward the priesthood. I hadn't believed that God could fulfill my desire in any other way than the way that I had determined.
In order to reach our goal, our inheritance, we must surrender ourselves to God's plan. He created us, and only He knows our true path. This is why we hear, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." Meekness is surrendering our own plan and trusting that God is in control. It is not rejecting the desires of our hearts, but rather trusting that God will fulfill them in His plan.
We are not called by God to live an unfulfilled life devoid of passion and desire. In fact, God wants us to live with joy and zeal that leads us towards our inheritance, eternal life with Him. However, we must trust that He has a plan for our lives that will lead us to him. Meekly surrendering ourselves and our personal plans to God's, we will be fulfilled in ways we never thought possible, and will ultimately be led to our final goal: union with God our Heavenly Father, who is the complete fulfillment of all our desires.