By Fr. Joe O’Connor
“This word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: Arise and go down to the potter’s house; there you will hear my word. I went down to the potter’s house and there he was, working at the wheel. Whenever the vessel of clay he was making turned out badly in his hand, he tried again, making another vessel of whatever sort he pleased. Then the word of the Lord came to me: Can I not do to you, house of Israel, as this potter has done?—oracle of the Lord. Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, house of Israel.” – Jeremiah 18:1-6
If you have ever worked on a pottery wheel, then you will know that the image presented to Jeremiah presents a few pre-requisite demands. Before a piece of clay can be shaped on a pottery wheel, it has to be softened.
Softened. It sounds so easy, but consider how this applies to life, as is the intent of the word given to Jeremiah. Our hearts grow hardened in this life when someone betrays our trust – maybe in a simple way, like telling a secret or gossiping behind your back, or maybe in a major manipulation that left you wounded. The hardening of your heart is a good and healthy emotional response. It protects you from further pain. However, we have to allow the Lord to heal that wound, if we are to be shaped in the future.
Just as for the dried out clay, it is not over for your heart. Clay can be made malleable with a good soak in water. The process of healing for your heart requires a good dose of the Holy Spirit. Invite the Lord to soften your heart and to help you forgive by name the person who has hurt you. This will open your heart to the way in which the Lord asks you to share your love with the world.
Vocation is not simply a matter of how you will spend your life, but rather it is an answer to the question, “How will I spend my love.” That is what Maria found out in the Sound of Music story. She struggled to reconcile the love she felt in her heart and the plan she had grasped in her mind. When she runs back to the convent, the Reverend Mother gives her great advice:
Reverend Mother: You have a great capacity to love. What you must find out is how God wants you to spend your love.
Maria: Oh, Mother, you can’t ask me to do that. Please let me stay. I beg of you!
Reverend Mother: Maria, these walls were not built to shut out problems. You have to face them. You have to live the life you were born to live.
Now, before you begin to belt out “Climb Every Mountain,” consider the truth in this exchange. You are invited by the Lord to find your calling – how it is he wants you to spend your love. However, before you can be shaped according to this plan, you must invite the Holy Spirit to soften your heart, allowing you to give and receive love. Pray with courage for this gift and let God shape you.