God Calls Us
Pope Francis has chosen the motto "Miserando atque eligendo," meaning lowly but chosen; literally in Latin "by having mercy, by choosing Him." I was reminded at a Lenten recollection facilitated by another Columban priest that only those who experienced real mercy will also be able to show so much mercy to others.
Twenty-three years ago I was an altar server. I would go to Church on Sunday and spend about the whole day in Church serving at every Mass in my home parish in Iligan City, Philippines. I felt at home. I was only about 10 years old when I told myself that one day Lord, I will be able to raise You up like the priest. One day I will be able to offer You up for everyone to see. And last year on the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I was finally ordained into the priesthood after 10 years of holistic formation. That was one of the happiest days of my life. And in between those years of formation I spent some time as an English tutor to Koreans, a social studies teacher to grades 2 and 5 and then as a government employee. It was not an easy journey, but it was surely the greatest adventure I am still enjoying. And I am grateful for every moment God has given me; He has truly blessed me. Once we give everything to God, God takes care of everything for us.
We are called. God calls us.
We are called to be Jesus' partners; co-missionaries. Do you know why Jesus became man like every one of us and was born as a little child? Many of us would say: He came to save us, to pay the price for our sins and to lead us back to God our Father. All these are correct, and we do not forget. But there is something more: He came not to do this alone. St. Augustine used to say that God created us without us; He won't save us without us. This means that we can only be saved and led back to God the Father only with our cooperation. Every one of us, since the moment of our baptism, has been called by God to be partners, co-missionaries of Jesus in the world today. The prophet Isaiah heard God asking: "Whom shall I send? Who will go with us?" Will you say, "Here I am Lord, I have come to do your will." Or will you say not "now Lord I want to do my will."
Called to be like Jesus.
I believe just like the Church does, that we are called to be like Jesus. This is a call we all have to follow. This call to be like Jesus is a call to be holy, human and happy. We often say, I cannot possibly be like You or follow You. I am not worthy. I am small. I am weak. I am helpless. That is what Peter exactly said, "Get away from me, my Lord, for I am a sinner."
In the Gospel of St. Luke, Jesus said, "I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent." And further in the Gospel Jesus assures us, "Do not be afraid." Pope Francis also reminds us, "do not bury your talents, the gifts that God has given you! Do not be afraid to dream of great things! Ask Jesus what He wants from you and be brave." When I was only 10 years old, I dreamed of being a priest, a great thing for a little boy like me. I was scared, but I asked Jesus, what do You want of me? Be brave. Be brave. God is good and faithful. God calls you to be holy, human and happy. Do not be afraid. Try it.
Called to be merciful, just as the Father is.
Last year, Pope Francis instituted the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. He said that Jesus is the face of the mercy of the Father. We are called to be the face of Jesus, to be merciful to be like the Father. No matter what status we have in life, our Christian vocation is rooted in transcending ourselves, leaving behind our comfort and the inflexibility of our ego in order to center our life in Jesus Christ, Pope Francis asserted. Let us practice the corporal and spiritual work of mercy. The corporal and spiritual works of Mercy are actions we can perform that extend God's compassion and mercy to those in need.
We are all anointed with the oil of chrism to become "other Christs" in our world. Each of us is called to an intimate relationship with Christ; each of us is called to belong to the people of God and each of us is called to holiness of life and a unique mission of witnessing God's love in the world. Our call of Baptism is then deepened and made particular in the call to marriage and family, single life, the holy orders, religious life or to pastoral ministry and service in the church. All vocations are equally precious to the eyes of God and the Church. There is not one more special and valued than another. We all work for the same person. We all partake in one and the same mission—to bring the Joy of the Gospel to people. The past few weeks I returned to the Fiji Islands where I was for my very first mission as a Columban student. One time I visited a friend and with us was one Indian man, and he is a Hindu. He asked me, what good news do you bring Father?
As a Christian, what good news do you bring to persons you encounter every day? For us, the good news we bring to people is Jesus Christ himself. He is the Good News. Let us not be afraid to say: Here I am, send me. Here I am, my Lord.
Columban Fr. Kurt Zion Pala lives and works in Myanmar (formerly Burma).