5TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME: GREATER CALLING DESPITE UNWORTHINESS

here-I-am

Life is about discovering who we truly are. To know who we truly are, we need to discover our greater calling. Life is not just about waking up every day, eating, working and doing our daily chores. Beyond our daily struggles and frustrations, there is a far more meaningful life that we can experience but only if we are able to take a risk. When we are able to take risk, we discover the awesome goodness of divine power. In the presence of divine power we become aware of our unworthiness. Despite our unworthiness, we are called to greatness in the loving service of God and others.

This is the theme of our readings for today’s 5th Sunday in ordinary time. This is the story of three of the greatest characters in the Bible—the prophet Isaiah, and the apostles Paul and Peter.

Each of these three men experienced God’s abundant goodness and grace. In the presence of the divine goodness, all three felt a profound unworthiness.

In the First Reading, Isaiah exultantly receives a vision of heaven itself. The Lord is seated on a high and lofty throne and the Seraphim angel choir is crying out, “holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts! All the earth is filled with his glory!”*

In the face of this heavenly vision, Isaiah reacts with shame! He says,

Woe is me, I am doomed!
For I am a man of unclean lips,
living among a people of unclean lips;
yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!

In response an angel swoops down with a burning coal and begins to cleanse his lips!!!! He is doomed, alright, but doomed to be made clean through suffering, to be made able to speak of God.

In the Second Reading. St. Paul says that Christ appeared to him last of all, as to one born abnormally,

“For I am the least of the apostles,
not fit to be called an apostle,
because I persecuted the church of God.”

Paul persecuted the Church but then, because of God’s grace, he became a great minister of Christ.

In the Gospel Jesus tells Peter James and John to fish in the deep water (where they had been fishing and fishing and fishing all night but caught nothing). Without warning their nets become bloated with fishes that their nets were tearing. At the sight of the abundant catch, Peter knelt before Jesus and cried out,

“Depart from me, Lord,
for I am a sinful man.”

What followed that sense of unworthiness was a divine assurance but the biggest surprise of all was God’s commission.

One of the seraphim that flew to Isaiah touches him with an ember and assures him that his wickedness is purged. Then the future prophet hears the commissioning voice of the Lord saying,

“Whom shall I send?
Who will go for us?”

Isaiah freely said in reply,

“Here I am, send me!”

For his part, Paul found himself drawn into a mission of surprising fruitfulness. When he alludes to this mission as he writes to the Corinthians, he is compelled to say,

“But by the grace of God I am what I am,
and his grace to me has not been ineffective.
Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them;
not I, however, but the grace of God that is with me.”

The amazed and kneeling Peter hears Jesus address him,

“Do not be afraid;
from now on you will be catching men.”

When we experience God’s abundant grace we become suddenly aware of our unworthiness. Unworthiness here does not mean we are worthless. In the face of God’s goodness, however, we truly become aware of our place in the universal scheme of things. Experience of God lets us understand that we are far, far less than God. This is the same attitude that we express in the part of the mass when we say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” We confess to the Lord our unworthiness right before we’re about to let God’s awesome grace into our mortal bodies.

Nevertheless, God does not hold our inadequacies against us. It is, however, important for us to truly accept our unworthiness. For the moment we recognize our inadequacy, our sin, our smallness before the greatness of the transcendent God, we are capable of truly being called out of ourselves. When God is heard to say, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” Isaiah responds, “Here I am. Send me.” He is empowered, not paralyzed.

Lord give us your worthiness instead of our unworthiness; make us deeper than our doubts. Let us fall on our knees. as did Simon Peter. Just as you did with Paul, give us your grace to overcome the chasm that lies between who we are and whomever you might call us to be. So together with Isaiah, we can say, “Here I am; send me!”

Advertisements

November Month of Vocation: Threats and Challenges to Vocation Today

national-day-of-prayer-vocations

November is a special month in the shrine for showcasing vocation. During this month, every Wednesday there is a sharing and testimonials about the different vocation in our church, e.g., religious sisters, priests, brothers and lay vocation. There is also an ongoing photo exhibit by different religious congregations and lay associations.

The shrine has actively promoted vocations through these years. It has a vocation office and a full-time Redemptorist and lay vocation promoter who coordinates all vocation promotion activities in the shrine. The shrine promotes all vocation, not just vocation to religious life. The profound truth is that we are all called by God. Each of us has his/her particular special calling by God. Each vocation is unique.

francis-seelos-center

Vocation which literally means calling, is a reality deeply embedded in our lives. We all have this inner burning itch of what we would like to become someday. Depending on what our unique God-given talents and ability are, we pursue our dream, for example, to become an engineer, a doctor, a teacher, a photographer, a dancer, etc., someday. In our Christian framework, however, vocation is not only an ambition or a career that we want to pursue in the future. Vocation is God’s calling to live life to the fullest that God has planted in our hearts. To live life to the fullest is in no way opposed to developing our talents and pursuing our creative path. As our Lord Jesus have said, however, we can only achieve the highest fulfillment of ourselves, our gifts and talents if we do not keep it to ourselves but to develop and share them for the love of God, our neighbor and ourselves. In other words, if we wish to fulfill our vocation as Christians we must all become selfless servants and lovers. Whenever we are inclined to seek for ourselves wealth, prestige, popularity, and position, it is no longer about vocation but ambition and power.

The socio-economic and political milieu of the world today may be more receptive to the drive for ambition and power. Thus, it poses some imminent threats and tough challenges to living out the Christian perspective of vocation. We shall focus on two of these major threats and challenges.

One of the biggest threat to vocation today is globalization and the dominant system of neo-liberal capitalism. Because of globalization, many young people chooses professions which will provide the quickest job in a globalized economy. Because of the poverty that was exacerbated by globalization, many young people have no choice but to take professions that will get them easy jobs both here and abroad, for example, nursing, seaman, caregiver, domestic helper, laborers; vocational and technical courses like welding, mechanics, computer technician, etc. For easy landing in local jobs, topping the list of professions today are: call center, medical transcriptionists, etc.

It is a sad reality, indeed, that for many of our young people in our country today, the main motivation for choosing one’s vocation is getting out of the vicious cycle of poverty. Never mind if this is what they truly want and aspire, the reality is, many young people dream of freeing their family from the shackles of poverty. Thus, many are in their present profession, even though they are not happy or something inside of them is saying that this is not the way they would wish to become someday. The economic plight has stifled their creativity and worst of all the very nature of what they want to become.

Another threat to the living out of the Christian vocation is the postmodern culture. Postmodernism has created a “me” society where the interests of the individual takes precedence over the interests of the country or social group or religion. The autonomous individual becomes the measure of all things. The focus is on oneself, one’s own personal development, apart from one’s community and society. Individualism also endangers tradition and institution. That is why there is a massive mistrust in most of the traditional institutions and authority. This is particularly strong amongst young people where they have shown less and less knowledge about their nation’s heroes. And because of the loss of credibility and authenticity of leaders and those in authority, more and more young people have shown reluctance to follow anyone, let alone look up to an idol or a model.

In a world which apparently has no one to follow, it has become tougher to offer a way of life anchored on following Christ. In this age where traditional sources of meaning are being questioned by today’s generation, the very purpose of vocation has become harder to live out and has stirred some inner confusion and emptiness.

These threats and challenges, among other factors, have led to less and less young people entering priesthood and religious life. Probably church and religious leaders have not live enough what they preach. Many have been turned off by the scandals in the church–sexual and material. More significantly, church and religious may have not always succeeded in communicating the real reasons of their consecration and ministry, and in showing how their way of life and spirituality can respond to the needs of the present generation especially the young.

These threat and challenges should not, however, deter us from discovering our deepest calling, pursuing our noblest aspirations and achieving our fullest human maturity. The material, commercial and individualist milieu does not invalidate nor diminish the integrity of vocation as living life to the fullest in a life of service and sacrifice. In a globalized world, the biggest challenge is to continue to proclaim the liberating Gospel which gives us a meaningful way to set people free from the slavery to money, power and fame. In a highly individualized world, the biggest challenge is to continue to proclaim that only in Jesus Christ can we be true individuals, fully human and fully alive. Living out the true meaning of vocation is not to fulfill our calling in isolation but in communion with others and with God.

Mary’s life is a testimony to the truth that our deepest vocation is to live according to a greater cause other than ourselves. Life’s deepest calling is to enter into God’s plan and surrender to the will of God. “I am the Lord’s servant,” said Mary to the angel, “may it happen to me as you have said” (Lk 1: 38). Mary’s response to God’s invitation was not a blind submission but a free and deliberate giving of herself to a higher purpose, that is, to be the mother of the Son of God made man. In responding to God’s invitation, she achieved perfect happiness and humanity.

vocation-ad

If you want to discover and discern more the meaning of your true vocation in life, come and drop by at our Vocation office. You may also attend the regular search-in, holy hour and vocation direction activities at the shrine. For more information, visit our website.

Our Mother of Perpetual Help, pray that we may continue to discover, respond and live out God’s calling in our lives.