California Dreaming

“And theSnowy mountainy offered him wine mingled with myrrh; but he did not take it.” –Mark 15:23

I really didn’t want to move to California. I was comfortably settled in between the snow-covered mountains of Denver and I wanted to stay there. I also really wanted to be with my soon-to-be-fiancé at the time…but…he lived in California.

It was so tempting to force the situation in the direction that I wanted it to go. I really wanted my then fiancé (now husband) to move to Denver, where he could pursue a career in mechanical engineering, while I pursued mine in ministry, simultaneously studying for a doctorate degree. I loved the idea of staying close to the friends I had made, building the kingdom in the apostolate I wanted to work for, and scaling mountains on the weekends in the Mile High City. At the time, I just didn’t want to listen to the voice of God, which was rather clearly calling me to be the one that uprooted, moving for the fourth time in five years, this time to the Los Angeles area.

I thought of Jesus dying on the cross, and the observation made in Mark 15:23: “And they offered him wine mingled with myrrh; but he did not take it.” Those who offered Jesus the wine with myrrh were adhering to the custom of offering strong drink to criminals who were condemned to death, an offering to alleviate some of their torment (see Proverbs 31:6-7). The myrrh mixed into the wine likely added a pleasant fragrance, but also could have been included for its narcotic effects. Jesus refuses the drink—a glimmer of carnal comfort—in the midst of his deepest agony. In this act, Jesus demonstrates his desire to drink only from the cup of suffering given to him by his Heavenly Father, having pledged at the Last Supper, “I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (Mark 14:25).

Jesus had his eyes focused on the bigger goal of opening the doors of heaven to a fallen humanity. It was this resolve to do the will of his Father that strengthened him against desires of the flesh. Can you imagine how wonderful that sip of wine would have been, had you been in Jesus’ position, slowly and painfully dying, and most certainly thirsty? Though the wine that Jesus was offered was not evil in itself, there was a greater plan at hand, and accepting the wine at that time would have gotten in the way of it.

Roughly three years ago now, I wanted what I thought would be a more comfortable life in Denver, focusing on ministry work in an office or classroom. What I got instead—and what my heart really wanted—was the will of my Heavenly Father, which was much better than I could have anticipated.

The lesson here resides in the importance of possessing Jesus-like determination and vision. If only we always had our eyes always fixed on higher goals, imagine what we could accomplish! Whether that be taking 20 minutes a day for solitary prayer, avoiding the temptation to check your smartphone during that time, or volunteering for that ministry at church when it means you might have to miss the pleasure of your favorite TV show that airs the same evening. For others, this Christ-like resolve and focus could help overcome struggles to eat and live healthier, or to offer forgiveness when it is easier to give in to the desire to go to bed and avoid the tension that sometimes comes before reconciliation. On a larger scale, it could mean making a decision that puts family life ahead of your professional career.

Whatever goals or decisions you have to make—especially the spiritual ones—meditate on this passage of Scripture, asking the Lord to help you fix your eyes on the prize and on his will for you, which always brings the greatest reward.

CatholicKatie HeadshotBY KATIE WARNER – Katie Warner of CatholicKatie.com is a wife, mother, author, speaker, and evangelist, who helps inspire and practically guide others to take small but transformative steps to grow in holiness in their personal and family lives. Katie is a correspondent for the National Catholic Register, a writer for the Integrated Catholic Life, and a presenter for the Augustine Institute’s acclaimed Symbolon and Opening the Word faith formation programs. She has appeared on EWTN TV and radio, and works very part-time for the media apostolate, Catholics Come Home. Katie’s favorite ministry work, however, is family life. Her book on spiritual leadership is soon to be released by Emmaus Road Publishing.

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