I get asked all the time why I chose to become a nurse. “Why would you put yourself through so much work,” “Geez, that’s a hard major,” or the classic – “Wow, you must be so exhausted.”
I won’t lie; it is a lot of work; it is a hard major, and yes, I am chronically sleep deprived. But, it is so worth it! Why? Because my work in serving others allows me to fulfill a higher purpose! My job is to be the hands and feet of Christ in a direct ministry serving others when they are their most vulnerable.
At the very core of our Catholic faith is a call to serve joyfully. Choosing to serve means recognizing the dignity instilled in others and reciprocating God’s love by respecting His creation. I am most myself when I choose to serve because I am fulfilling humanity’s universal vocation to love and sacrifice. By serving, I become the person God created me to be! This decision to serve with joy is pleasing to the Father, and in turn, becomes pleasing to our own hearts. This is why the call to mission work is so deeply instilled in the hearts of the faithful: when we serve others, we become the best version of ourselves.
In October of 2018, I had the opportunity to lead a mission team to Lourdes, France and serve pilgrims in search of healing. For those who haven’t heard about Lourdes, it is where our Blessed Mother appeared to St. Bernadette in a series of apparitions. Lourdes has become a sanctuary of healing associated with countless miracles, and people from all over the world make pilgrimage to Lourdes out of devotion to and hope in Christ’s healing powers through Mary. I realized during my time serving in Lourdes that despite being physically exhausted, I couldn’t have felt more spiritually alive. It was in the service of others that I discovered true joy and recognized the reality of the living Lord in the heart of each and every person. In serving the ill and the broken around me, I found myself able to minister to the pierced Sacred Heart of Jesus that dwells in all of us. When we serve, we console the living Heart of Jesus.
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”Matthew 25:40
What a beautiful opportunity to make a sacrifice of love for the Lord who sacrificed Himself for us! Still, we have to recognize that constantly serving gets tiring. I will be the first to willingly admit that burnout is real, and exhaustion hits hard when we constantly pour ourselves out in service. We can’t do it alone – our love is finite, and our energy is limited. We need the Lord, in his infinite and unlimited love and mercy to renew us and refill us.
Imagine a vase half full. Sure, there is water available, but the vase itself has to be pushed over in order for the water to be poured out, and probably ends up broken. If you’re the vase, that’s where burnout hits and when an empty feeling sets in. Now, imagine that same vase being constantly filled to the point of overflowing. It pours out water while still standing tall because it has a source of constant renewal. We aren’t called to pour ourselves out exhaustively in order to reach others, but rather to allow the Lord to overflow from us – to allow Him to be our source of constant renewal. In order to serve effectively, we have to allow God to fill us up, or we will find ourselves empty and broken. We must always run back to the Father; He alone will give us the means to overflow with readiness to serve joyfully.
With our willingness to serve and the Lord’s longing to renew us, we form a relationship with God based on mutual sacrifice. God gives of Himself by pouring His love and joy into us, and we give of ourselves by using our freedom to choose to be sources of God’s mercy for others. We know from the cross that sacrifice is the highest form of love. We have nothing more to give than our very selves, so that is what true service asks of us. Therefore, a heart of service is a heart full of love. And, what is Love other than God Himself?
Here’s the core of it all: a heart of service is a heart filled with the Lord Himself – as joyful servants, we become tabernacles of the Living God!
I pray that the Lord may inhabit your hearts, that His love may overflow from you, and that your sacrifice of service may bring you unending joy.
All glory be to God!