Some people, hearing what I did a little more than six years ago, think it was a great act, something marvelous and beyond their capacity.
I left a secure job in campus ministry in Ames, Iowa, and ongoing chances to teach a course at the university and came to serve as a lay missionary in the poorest diocese of Honduras.
But when I look back I see it as a great blessing, which continues to bless me.
In many ways, we are all like Gideon in today’s first reading from Judges 6. He discounts his ability to do what the angel of the Lord asks: “My family is the lowliest in Manasseh, and I am the most insignificant in my father’s house.”
But God chooses the simple, the weak, those who recognize their weaknesses – and promises, “I shall be with you.”
“But, you left behind so much,” some might think. I was even told that one person suggested that I was not really using my training and talents by doing this, especially when I began to help a priest in a rural parish.
But, Jesus’s words to Peter in today’s Gospel (Matthew 19: 23-30) are almost literally true:
And everyone who has given up houses
or brothers or sisters or father or mother
or children or lands for the sake of my name
will receive a hundred times more,
and will inherit eternal life.
I pray that I may inherit eternal life, but I feel as if I have already received a hundredfold.
In some ways I now have a huge family – not only the people whom I minister with and to in the parish of Dulce Nombre. They have welcomed me into their homes – giving me food to eat, a bed to sleep in, and they’ve even helped me start my car when the battery went dead. But even more they have revived my spirit and my ministry with them have helped me develop an ability to teach in a participative style.
I helped a few years ago with a lunch program for kids, which sadly was not continued when the new bishop arrived. But as I walk the streets of Santa Rosa there are innumerable times when I hear a kid yell out “Juancito.” I sometimes feel as if this bachelor now has a lot of kids.
This has been a blessing – reminding me of how God has blessed us, a reminder that I need all too often.