| By Fr. Dwight Ezop

Want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans

When I was a student in college, Fr. Charlie Irvin, who was my pastor at the time, told me, “Do you want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans!” Little did I know that those words would come true during my third year in seminary, as I made preparations for my six-month parish internship. As I was getting ready to head off to my internship parish, I shared with some of my seminary classmates that the situation that gave me the most anxiety was imagining the first time that I had to handle an emergency at the hospital without the assistance of the pastor or parochial vicar. In my mind, though, there really wasn’t any need to worry. After all, my internship would last only six months, and I was pretty certain that my dreaded scenario could never happen in such a short time.

My internship began on a Saturday in late February as I was introduced to the parish at the evening Mass. Afterward, the pastor left to attend the symphony, leaving me to settle into the rectory. The parochial vicar was away on vacation, so I anticipated a quiet evening as I unpacked. As the pastor’s taillights faded from sight in that night’s snowstorm, the emergency phone line in the rectory rang. An elderly woman was dying at the local hospital, and the family needed someone to pray with her and her loved ones right away.

I calmly explained that neither parish priest was available.

I shared that I was a seminarian, new to the parish and the city.

I volunteered to try to locate an available priest.

The very patient nurse on the other end of the line noted that none of the area priests could be located. Someone–could she mean me?–needed to get to the hospital as quickly as possible. At that moment, I thought, “God, you got me into this. Help me to do what you need me to do.”

Slipping and sliding through the snow in my little car, I made my way to the hospital. I managed to find the dying woman’s room and met her family. After sharing viaticum with her, we gathered around her bed and prayed with her. She slipped quietly home to God later that night. When I finally made it home and to bed, the last thought in my mind as I closed my eyes was one of thankfulness–to God, for getting me through my very first pastoral emergency.

I saw the woman’s family at Mass the following morning. They thanked me for being with them as their beloved wife and mother died, and then asked me to lead her wake service. I was deeply moved and gratefully accepted their invitation.

I learned a lot during the course of my internship, but nothing was more important than the lesson of my first night in the parish: surrendering my will to God’s will reveals God’s goodness time after time. Whenever I’m afraid, tired, feeling over-extended or ill-equipped, tempted to put my will or my needs before God’s, I remember that night and think, “God, you got me into this. I know you’ll give me the grace to do what you need me to do.” I remember that special lesson about the first commandment and what becomes possible when we put God first in our lives.

The Ten Commandments and the many beautiful possibilities they open in our lives will guide us through the months of 2014. Although they sound negative on the surface, each commandment invites us into a positive and ever-deepening relationship with God and with our sisters and brothers. And so our journey in FAITH continues.

Father Dwight Ezop is editor of FAITH Magazine and pastor of the Catholic Community of St. Jude. E-mail: editor@FAITHmag.com.