Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
1 Samuel 3: 10
Gospel of 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time: John 1: 35-42
I think many Catholics are like Samuel too, most often we are in the first '2 times category'; we run to Eli and not to God. A very good number of Catholics till today belief that to respond to God's call we must tire ourselves to search for religious order or parish groups, we go through all the procedures for the priests/order/president of the group to scrutinize/interview us and once it finishes most of the time the enthusiastic candidate is rejected. We as Catholics, and even as ordinary people, we believe that to live this life fully we must be 'OUTSTANDING'. No, that is wrong when the fact that we each were born naked and naked we shall return to the Lord; we are in fact very ordinary beings.
Since this is the year of consecrated life let me open myself to you and share a private experience with you. Many religious orders, sadly but honestly, behave very much like the world; they play around with potential candidates. Some years now, priests have apologized to me in person for past events. I write this not to criticise them, because like us, religious and priests are also trying their best; adding to that the culprits have apologized to me in person. This was how many enquires of new candidates are played around (it also does happen with Parish Groups!) when they approach to express with call:
- Silence - one religious that I was brought to, made me talk for almost an hour and he gave no reply at the end of it. After a few years I got to know that this man is not very much a man of the Church; I got to know he is a little radical, believed in living outside his community of Brothers and does not agree in wearing the habit, he prefers normal clothes even at official functions while majority of Bothers dresses in the cassock.
- "Go and work first, go complete your Master degree, get a girlfriend" - As a young boy, 18/19 years of age, I was honestly surprised to hear this. My parents told me and ordinary people told me the same thing, but I never expected it to come from a religious/priest with whom I was so passionate in sharing God's Call with. I felt betrayed and lost.
- Passion and enthusiasm is not allowed - At every meeting that I had with religious to share my call with, my passion and enthusiasm was look on as not required for a candidate to religious life. Enthusiasm was even looked at as an obstacle to religious life, thus causing the possible candidate to be rejected. This I was surprised because, did not the Bible ask us to be full of life for Jesus Christ? I was surprised because Pope John Paul 2 too was so full of energy in his proclamation of the Gospel. Again when religious said I was wrong because I was too full of energy for God, it added towards my sense of lost.
Today's reading at Mass is a reminder that when God calls us, God does not expect us to be abused or to be the abuser. I think where many of us go wrong is we expect candidates who approach us to be lousy; we want candidates who are totally empty, no idea of his/her own Faith, no connection with God (do not pray, do not read the Bible). I have come across events where a candidate to religious life with a doctorate degree being rejected, because he was smarter than the Rector (Principle) of the seminary.
No, this is not the way, and Pope Francis even has said so. The Bible even have said so, that yes test the candidate at all cost, but do the testing mercifully.
Today, I encourage all of you Catholics who totally commit yourselves to God to not be afraid. Like Samuel, all we need to say to God is a simple sincere response, "HERE I AM. YOU CALLED ME!" Take the word "HERE" to heart, because God calls you to live life fully, that is to obey His will, in:
- the HERE and NOW; where you are right now, if you hear God's voice, respond with action. Do not go hunting for organisations to join, parish groups, orders. If priests and religious and lay leaders are smart enough (sadly often not) they will invite you to join.
- the ordinary; if where you are right now is a place of sorrow, a place of hardships, maybe you telling yourselves "I am not good enough". God has something great for you in every situation, we just have to say to God, "Here I am Lord, You have called me".