Our One Wild and Precious Life

Our One Wild and Precious Life

By Bob Donius

Bob Donius is a retired lecturer in Theology and Franciscan Studies and former Vice President of Ministries at St. Bonaventure University.

Scripture: Luke 4: 14-22

Song: You are Mine by David Haas

What is your vocation? What are you called to?

This story in the Gospel tells us how Jesus has come to understand his mission, his vocation, his calling, who he is and what he is meant to do. Like Isaiah he is called to the work of compassion: bringing joy, proclaiming liberty, restoring sight, freeing those captive to darkness and pain.

In our own life’s journey, how do we discern our vocation; how do we respond to the question that Mary Oliver poses at the end of her poem, The Summer Day, Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

For young adults heading off to college, we might be considering a major study or career possibilities.

Offering a bigger frame than that, author Fred Buechner says that your vocation is where your greatest joy meets the world’s great need.

Our faith reminds us that we were created by God who is Love, to live with love, to finally be fully embraced by Infinite Love.

So how will you, how will I, give our life away in love…to spend our gifts and energies in the service of Love? Not just over time, but each day, one day at a time?

Let me offer another big frame for Mary’s question.

We know that the universe began with the great flaring forth 13.7 billion years ago, and unfolded through a magnificent journey from that moment through birth, death, rebirth, star formation, galaxies, new planets, new creatures, new species, in a process of complexification, diversification and specification to this moment, and now you, once and only once.

Your vocation is to DO YOU, each day and over a lifetime. No one else can do Nolan, only you. No Pressure! The universe has conspired to bring us you. The universe needs you to do you. Each of you. Each of us. Closer to our moment, in the millions of possibilities that could have occurred, one specific sperm joined one egg to become you, to become me. How awesome.

When our son Hansen was born, our priest friend Peter was in the room. (Kim was always delighted to have company!!) When asked by a friend, “Well, Peter, what was it like?” He said, “Miracle, miracle, miracle!” I told that story at an orientation at Bona’s one year and one of those incoming freshmen, Chris, every time we passed each other for the next four years, would say, “Miracle, miracle, miracle.” Yes! He got it!

The story is told that a person once asked Michelangelo how he had created the David. He said, “I chipped away everything that was not David.”

Might we become more and more who we are called to be, the miracle we are, the magnificent work that the universe has brought forth in its 13.7 billion year ongoing journey, giving ourselves in Love, in whose image and by whom we have been created.

This call is now and unfolds over time, from birth, at 10, at 18, 25, 35, 45, 55, 65, 75, 85, 95.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

We don’t HAVE TO, we GET TO!

Last week we celebrated the Feast of Pentecost. Pastor Louise invited us to consider the life of the earliest church and offer our gifts for the common good in the current Church. Your church and mine are in a time when many of its members are elders, and we are looking for new leadership and new models of leadership. We could be tempted to consider this as a church that is 2000 years OLD, hanging on to our old ways until the Parousia.

But pick a bigger context. In a 13.7 billion Year unfolding universe, we as church are only 2000 years young. We are still the early Church, only 2000 years from the earliest Church. We are still learning who we are and what our mission needs to be. We need new structures to carry out this mission.

The long view can allow us to be freer and more exploratory. We can take hope in seeing the pattern of Jesus life, from death to resurrection, throughout the whole journey of the universe, from the passing of one form of being into new forms of being.

 Within this context we can give our life’s energies to a project that will stretch beyond our own lifetime. We do this when we raise children and mentor grandchildren. We do this when we plant trees. We do this in all the little and big ways that we build community. We do this when we join hands and hearts with people of other religious traditions, other cultures, other ethnicities, other orientations, other races, other ages. Because they are not OTHER. We are one. We give ourselves in LOVE to the One who Loves us, each and all.

This is a moment for all of us, including Nolan. What will you see and where will you go and what will you do, today and tomorrow and for a lifetime. “What will you do with your one wild and precious life? The Lord is with us every step of the way, as promised: “And know that I am with you always, until the end of the world.” (Matthew 28: 20)

At the end of his life, St. Francis of Assisi told his companions, “I have done what was mine to do; may Christ show you what is yours to do.” Notice that you have something to do, not everything!

I take comfort in Pope John 23rd, who worked hard to make big and important changes in the Church of his day, 60 years ago. And yet, on heading to bed each night, he would pass the chapel and lean in with this prayer, “Lord, it’s your Church; I’m going to bed.”