Following the Lord when we don’t know where he’s leading

Giovanni Domenico Ferret’s 18th century painting, “The Last Supper.” (Wikimedia Commons)

As we enter into Ordinary Time and begin reading sequentially through the Gospels at Mass, we encounter Jesus’ calling of His first disciples. How easy they had it, we might be tempted to think, as they could actually see Him in the flesh to follow Him.

I remember expressing a similar sentiment to my spiritual director in college, as I was discerning my vocation. When Jesus called the apostles, I said, they could just get up and follow where He walked; how could I know where to follow Him if I did not know where He was going? I was thinking of this only in terms of finding my vocation in life. Little did I understand at the time that the Christian life itself is precisely an exercise in following without clear knowledge of where God is leading.  

And even the apostles lacked clear knowledge; they could follow Christ physically, but they did not understand the Cross and Resurrection with the clarity that we now have. Jesus asked the same of them as He does of us: faith and trustful hope. We do not know where He will lead, but we trust in hope that He is providentially at work in all the events of our lives for our good and ultimately for our salvation.

If someone a year ago had told us what our lives would look like right now, we would have been shocked. The term “social distancing,” for example, was not even in our vocabulary! And yet, in reflecting on this year, I have been filled with a sense of gratitude. In the midst of all the suffering — often, in fact, because of it — there were so many graces, such as additional time for prayer, exercise and relaxation, and moments of connecting with my Sisters that would not have happened if I had been at home less often. Through it all, I realized, Christ was very tangibly present to my Sisters and me. But this was not something I could have ever foreseen, and sometimes I did not even notice it in the moment. Rather, in reflecting back and looking for how He had been at work within me during that time, I was able to see that His hand was guiding and directing me through it all to draw me closer to Himself.  

Let us take Our Lady for our model, she who “pondered all these things in her heart” (cf. Luke 2:19, 51). Reflecting on the circumstances of her life, Mary saw the hand of the Father guiding her and found the way to follow her Savior and Son. May we too look for the “something new” (cf. Isaiah 43:19) that He is accomplishing in us, leading us in faith and hope to union with Him. And let us follow where He leads, trusting that He will accomplish His work of holiness in us.

Sr. Mary Martha Becnel is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.