Today, Catholic Christians celebrate the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
In today’s epistle from the Second Letter to Timothy, we hear of a man who had served the Lord faithfully through time. Then, as it got closer for him to die and begin his life in heaven, he wrote, “…the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award tome on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance” (2 Timothy 4: 6-8).
The theme of this message is fidelity to our vocation no matter what obstacles we encounter, no matter how difficult the journey is. By meeting all the challenges on our journey in this life, we will indeed be rewarded by God. We will, indeed, receive the “crown of righteousness.”
Although Bible scholars are not certain who the author of the Second Letter to Timothy was, many believe it was St. Paul or someone close to him. In Paul’s life, he encountered an incredible number of challenges. Instead of having these challenges discourage him or make him quit his journey, they only made him stronger. For example, among the things he encountered as a missionary were being struck blind, expelled from cities, stoned by mobs, scourged with whips and rods, imprisoned, chained, shipwrecked, and maligned by enemies of all sorts. He was also frequently hungry, thirsty, exhausted, and cold. And in addition to all of the physical challenges he faced, he was continually worrying about the health and vitality of the various Christian communities.
Paul, however, did not give up. He saw all his problems as tests to make him strong, much as steel is tempered by fire to make it strong. Paul kept his eyes on the prize, eternal rest with God forever in heaven. He knew the only goal for every Christian is to become a saint.
Before examining vocational journeys, though, let’s look at some people of our time who did not let rejection get them down. And, as a result, they were successful in their vocations. These examples are from writers, for perhaps no other vocation is filled with rejection more than writers.
Richard Hooker worked for seven years on a humorous war novel, only to have it rejected by twenty-one publishers before one publisher finally accepted it. Not only did it sell well, but it became one of the most successful television series of all time. It’s name was M*A*S*H.
Louis L’Amour received more than 350 rejections before making his first sale. He eventually wrote over 100 western novels with more than two hundred million copies in print.
British writer John Creasy received more than 774 rejections before he sold his first novel. He then went on to write 564 books, using fourteen different names.
Dr. Seuss’ first children’s book, And to think I saw it on Mulberry Street, was rejected by twenty-seven publishers before Vanguard Press accepted it and sold six million copies of the book. Today, hundreds of millions of copies of Dr. Seuss’ books have been sold.
Mary Higgins Clark received forty rejections before selling her first novel. She has since sold tens of millions of her books.
And when Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen tried to sell a book called Chicken Soup for the Soul, 132 publishers turned it down. Today, they have sold tens of millions of copies in their Chicken Soup for the Soul series in more than 30 languages.
From today’s epistle and the writers’ experiences presented here, we can learn many things about our vocational journeys. Here are just three.
First, all vocational journeys have joys and challenges; none contain only joys. The late John Denver attested to this in his song, “Some Days Are Diamonds.” In the song, he notes that “some days are diamonds, some days are stones.” St. Paul, for example, had an incredible number of problems in his vocation as a missionary.
Second, one of the best ways to get through the obstacles or “stones” on our life journeys is to keep our eyes on the prize – and for every one of us here today, there is only one ultimate prize, and that is heaven. We all strive to be saints. All other goals pale by comparison.
And third, because we know that every person has days filled with “stones” or obstacles, we should always be ready and willing to help our brothers and sisters on their vocational journeys. Likewise, we should give others the gift of helping us when we are in need. After all, by allowing others to help us when we are having problems, is actually a gift to them, for by helping us, they will receive the joy and graces for their actions.
As we continue our life journeys this week, it would be a good idea to reflect on our own vocational journeys. What are the major joys we experience? What are the major stones or challenges we encounter?
And that is the good news I have for you on this Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2016.
Story source: “Consider This,” by Jack Canfield, Marc Victor Hansen and Bud Gardner, in Canfield, Hansen, and Gardner (Eds.), Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul, Deerfield
Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc., 2000, pp. 332-336.