Do you ever find yourself reflecting on the path life has taken you? “How did I end up here? This was not the life I dreamed of when I was little.” “This isn’t where I thought I would be.” You know, those moment when you say, “Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful to be where I am but this wasn’t what I thought college would look like.” I find that when we start to ask ourselves these questions it’s because we are becoming more aware of how unpredictable life really is.
I found myself having one of these moments just the other day. I started to think back to my life in college and comparing it to where I am in life now. I remembered a conversation I had with a friend during college. We had just become friends at the time of the conversation. She asked me “So… How did you end up here?” (referring to the college we were at). I then began to tell her how I honestly had no clue. All my life I had wanted to go to LSU and be an architect. I was sure of it. Everyone was sure of it. I wanted to build beautiful things.
Then one day I ended up at a small university in Ohio studying Theology. I didn’t even know what theology was in high school, and I surely didn’t feel like a good enough Catholic to be studying it in college. But there I was. After I had explained all this to her she just began to laugh and with a huge smile on her face she said “Don’t you get it? You are just like Francis!”
The Francis she was referring to was St. Francis of Assisi. If you don’t really know much about St. Francis of Assisi then don’t worry, I didn’t either. All I knew was that he was the Patron Saint of animals and that he threw himself into a thorn bush once. Needless to say, I didn’t exactly see how our stories clicked. But see, what I didn’t know was, putting the animals and thorn bush aside, Francis and I had a lot in common.
St. Francis grew up in a well established family. He loved life and he loved things. Pleasure was something that Francis valued more than anything. However, he started to realize that he wanted more for his life. He wanted his life to have meaning. One day, while Francis was praying about this, he heard the crucifix in front of him speak to him and say “Go, Francis, and repair my house, which as you see is falling into ruin.” At first, Francis took this literally. He gave up everything that he had valued the most: His wealth, his status, his family, all of it. He began to devote his time to the restoration of many churches around him. He would beg on the street corners for the stones to rebuild and he would work day after day to literally rebuild God’s house. After a while, he began to realize that maybe rebuilding the church was less about the actual building and more about the people in the church. St. Francis began to rebuild the church in a whole new way. He rebuilt the church by being present to the people, especially the poor. He preached a message of penance, love, and peace. He was so passionate about what he preached that it began to draw others to him. Other people were wanting to give up everything they had to be the hands and feet of Christ too. Before you knew it, a religious order now known as the Franciscans was started. To this day, the Franciscans continue to make an impact on our church.
I know I didn’t start a religious order, and believe me, I don’t plan to. But what my friend was trying to say was that I too had taken God literally. I thought I was suppose to build churches and buildings. But that wasn’t what God had in mind. God changed my heart. He changed my life plans. He made them better. He showed me how to rebuild his church in the way I live my life and through the ministries I am apart of. And every single day, He asks each and every one of us to rebuild his church.
How exactly? Through the way we live our lives. God’s “house” is within every person we encounter day in and day out. God’s call for us to rebuild his church is a call for us to change the way we look at life. He calls us to become more aware of His plans for our lives and to receive them with openness and gratitude. Life is unpredictable. It can be hard to even believe that God is calling us to bigger and better things than we could even dream of for ourselves, but I promise you that He is. St. Francis of Assisi once said “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible”. Can you imagine what the world would look like if we just started by showing people the unconditional love and mercy that only comes from God? Lord knows we need to. I say it’s about time that we start “rebuilding the Church”. Let’s start choosing to see Christ in the world and choosing to be Christ in the world.