The Good Shepherd and My Vocation Story

jesus-the-good-shepherdI am the good shepherd…I will lay down my life for the sheep (John 10:11, 15)

These are the words that caught my attention as I reflect on the gospel yesterday.  Seeing the connection of these words into my life, I cannot but refer it in my vocation story since it was also the celebration of the 52nd World Day of Prayer for Vocations yesterday.  As I do my very best to connect the words that made me reflect yesterday into my state as a religious soon to be priest; allow me to share to you my vocation story.

When I was a high school student, I don’t have any interest on priesthood.  My dream was to become a Chemical Engineer and get off my parents from poverty.  It’s normal and common to dream big like this especially when you came from a poor and underprivileged family.  So, during my high school days I study hard and really did my very best to pursue my dreams and not lose my focus.  In order to be self-motivated, I always say to my self during those times that I should never give up in achieving my dreams and goals in life which will serve as a means for my family to have a better life.  But, everything has changed when God suddenly intervened as I am chasing my own plans, goals, and dreams in life simply because He has a better plans, goals, and dreams for me.

I entered in the seminary out of curiosity.  At first, I don’t have any intention to pursue this kind of life because I just want to try it and find out the mystery behind the walls of the seminary.  But then, the mystery that I am searching for inside the seminary is the same mystery that made me like the seminary and continues the journey that I have started.  Now, I just have two years left before I become a full-fledge priest.  As time passes by, and as I continue this journey I realized that God calls me to pursue his dreams, i.e. to make me an instrument of love, hope, and empowerment for the people.  He made used my dreams to see his dreams in a bigger picture.  He used my miserable situation to be a wounded-healer for those who are also miserable and underprivileged like me.  As I ponder these things, I cannot but say these words; “It’s a tough and challenging call, but providential.”

Revisiting my vocation story I asked myself; “Why He called me in this kind of life despite the fact that I am a sinner and I am not worthy?  Why He chooses me among those who are the best, the most intelligent, the most pious, etc.?”  Simply because, He trusts me and He used my vulnerabilities for establishing a message that His call and love is not just for the righteous but for all.  Hence, He is a good shepherd; a shepherd that is ready to lay down his life for all of us.  It’s the same thing that the Lord is challenging us to do, i.e. to be a good shepherd for others especially for those who called by God for priestly and religious vocation.  God pastured me as His sheep in my seminary formation; now, he challenges me to do the same, i.e. to pasture the people who longs for love, hope, and empowerment.  It’s really a challenging task, but with the help of God nothing is impossible.  Henceforth, the message of the good shepherd is not just only for us who follow His path, but for each and every one of us.  To be like Him is a universal call that all of us must consider because we have the responsibility and the duty for our brothers and sisters who are longing for love, hope, and empowerment.  Let us also include on our prayers that Lord of the Harvest may always send good and holy laborers in the Church.  Also, include me in your prayers that I may be a good and holy laborer of God in his vast Harvest.

Learning from our Defeats

soccer-quote-every-defeat-is-a-victory-credit-jikatu“Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat.”

― Ralph EllisonInvisible Man

 “We did our best, unfortunately we lost the game”

This is what I told myself when we were defeated by our opponent in last Monday and Tuesday’s soccer match finals between our team Humilitas and our opponent Temperantia.  It was really a tough match.  The first half of the game held last Monday was really incredible and rough and so with the second half of the game held last Tuesday.    All of us did our best in order to reach the sweetness of the Championship trophy.  Unfortunately, we were defeated.  The final score was 3-2 in favor of our opponent.  Actually, we feel so pity on ourselves that we created so many diligent attempts in order to get some goals, but that day was really an unlucky day for us.  At first, we feel the remorse of being defeated in the game after doing our very best to secure the championship, afterwards the feeling of remorse immediately dissolved and just told ourselves it’s just part of the game; there are losers and winners.  But, losing in a game is not the end of everything and a reason to quit.  It’s just a means for us to improve more, to move forward, and to set sail once more toward our desired goals.

From this experience, I learned something valuable into my life.  I learned that being defeated does not mean I should stop moving on; it’s just an opportunity to see the brighter side of struggling for success and accomplishment.  I remember one of the insights of George E. Woodberry which talks about the positive side of defeat; “Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure.”  Hence, God allows defeat in order for us to realize that we cannot reach and attain success through an easy-going and tolerant attitude.  It always takes a lot of our perseverance, effort, and persistence.  Actually, many people became famous, popular, and successful in the world not because they are really best, but because they accept the fact that defeat is a necessary means in order for them to reach the seemingly unreachable dreams into their lives.  In life, it’s not on the winnings that we may be able to find out our fulfilled selves, it’s always on how we deal the various defeats that we encounter in life.  Being a loser of our soccer match finals that was held last Monday and Tuesday is not a guarantee that I am such a failure.  First and foremost, it does not bother me at all.  The important thing is we did our best and we brought a good match for our opponents.

They ABANDONed their nets and FOLLOWed him.

15_Lorenzo_Veneziano,_Calling_of_the_Apostles_Peter_and_Andrew._1370_Staatliche_Museen,_Berlin.The gospel for this Sunday moves me a lot.  It invites me to revisit the day that I said my “yes” to the Lord in Religious Life. What made me say my “yes” to God that said “Come follow me”?  It’s still a mystery which is hard to fathom until now, but as I was recalling that moment in my life, all I can say is that I was inspired by this line coming from the Scriptures which the Rogationists introduced to me; the Harvest is great, but the Laborers are few (Luke 10:2).

Like Simon and his brother Andrew who abandoned their nets and followed Jesus, and also with James and his brother John who left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him, I too experienced this climactic scenario in my life.  I never thought of entering in a seminary.  The dream that I really wanted is to become a Chemical Engineer.  Actually, I am not good in Math, but I was really so interested with engineering so I strived hard and persevere to understand and to imbibe the strictness of Math.  Everything was already set in order for me to pursue my dreams when suddenly God intervened in the form of curiosity.  When I was planning to process all the needed documents for a Chemical Engineering course, it was also the time that my friend Elmer invited me to join the vocation orientation in the Rogationist Seminary-Manila.  Without any hesitation I said “yes” and curiously asked myself; “What is a seminary? And, what is inside of it?”  And that’s how my vocation journey begun.

Jesus always offers us a call.  It is up to us, whether we follow His call or not and He respects our ability to make choices from the heart.  At first, I don’t understand why He called me and why I immediately said my “yes” to His call.  But, as I revisited all the experiences that I encountered in my vocation journey in the light of the gospel for today, now it is getting clearer and reasonable that He called me for a great purpose and mission.  Indeed, Jesus called his first disciple not just to be his followers but also to be his co-workers for a great mission that God has bestowed in Him.  However, it takes a lot of sacrifices in order to be his co-worker.  Relating this to my vocation story, it was really a struggle for me to sacrifice all my plans and aspiration to become a Chemical Engineer for the sake of God’s own plans and aspirations for my life.  Yes, I am free to say “No” to this, but the greatness of God’s mission prevailed and impelled me to say my “yes”.

Now, I don’t feel any regrets in following the Lord.  I am now doing my very best to be his co-worker despite the fact that I do have a lot of shortcomings, and I felt and still feeling the real happiness and joy inside my heart. It is really true that there is a ceaseless joy and happiness when you give everything and your whole self to God.  I am really convinced that there is a bright side in giving up everything for the sake of abiding our lives to God.   Are you willing to encounter this so called “stunning and defining experience”?  It is simply abandoning everything and start following Him.

#tidbitsforChristmas (On Saying ‘YES’!)

annunciation(1)What it means to say ‘yes’ to an opportunity or to a call?  The Fourth Sunday of Advent shows to me an answer for this question as I reflect upon the Sunday Gospel for today.  The gospel for today, which is taken from the Gospel of  St. Luke, talks about the Annunciation of the Angel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The Annunciation story is not just a story itself from the Bible, but it also gives to us a lesson which is essential for pondering as we also encounter some experiences in life that needs our firm decisions.  If Mary did not say her ‘yes’ to the Lord for sure there will be no Christmas, and we will never experience or define what is redemption or salvation is all about.  On Mary’s part, probably she was really perspiring or hesitant in hearing or saying her ‘yes’ to Angel Gabriel’s message that she will bore a Son who will be called Holy and the Son of God.  But, all those thingsdid not affect her in saying; “Behold I am the maidservant of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your Word.”

The gospel for today is really striking my life especially in my vocation journey.  To be honest, it’s really hard to say your ‘yes’ to an opportunity or to a call especially if it is God’s will.  It’s unavoidable to cling with your own plans or wills because you want to achieve something in life, you want to be happy, and you know your shortcomings and limitations.  But, it’s not the case when we speak about following the will of God.  To be honest, to follow the will is really challenging because you really need to deny your plans, wills, aspirations, and even dreams that you desire most.  What made Mary to say her ‘yes’ to God’s call to be the mother of the Messiah?  As I reflected upon the gospel, my thoughts were captivated upon the words of Angel Gabriel to Mary; “Do not be afraid…for nothing will be impossible for God.”  When I encounter this passage in the gospel for today, my eyes shed in tears.  For many years that I am journeying together with my identity as I religious there’s one thing that I can’t still overcome, i.e. fear.  Fear affected me greatly to trust with God’s providential care as I follow Him.  Yes, nothing is impossible for God, but how will I trust in these words of Him if I am afraid to dedicate and commit myself firmly to Him?  Why is it easy for Mary to say her ‘yes’ to God’s invitation, but for me it’s hard?

Really, the Annunciation story is not just a story itself from the Bible.  It serves as a model for me on how I may be able to trust in the Lord’s call without any hesitation in my heart.  Like Mary, I really need to check my trust with the Lord and ask this question to myself; what’s going on in me?  Why is it hard to trust the One that is gracious, merciful, and just.  Mary’s vocation story is really a challenge for my vocation journey.  Once God call you for a great purpose in life there has to be no if’s and but’s.  It’s a matter of firm faith, and to have a firm faith takes a lot of dying with my own self-interests.  As Christmas is fast-approaching I am so glad today that I encounter once again Mary’s vocation story.  It simply conveys to me a message that as I am really doing my best to follow the footsteps of Christ I need really to cast out all my fears and to say this deeply within my heart: “I am a maidservant of the Lord, may it done to me according to His will”.

#tidbitsforChristmas (The Unique Side of the Parol)

parolChristmas will never be as colorful as the rainbow without the parol.  Parol (Christmas Lanterns) here in the Philippines symbolizes the real essence of Christmas for all of us, i.e. hope and everlasting joy.  All of us are hoping for something which is good and prosperous this coming Christmas.  So, we look up the sky praying to the Lord to guide us and shower us abundant blessings and graces in life.  It’s the same thing when we look up the parol hanging on the trees or on top of our houses.  Together with our gazes toward the parols are our aspirations and expectations for something upright and worthy in life.  So that’s why our parols are star-shaped which represents the character of a Filipino, i.e. full of hope, firm in faith, and highly-spirited in principles and values despite the storms, misfortunes, shortcomings, and brokenness of life.

The parol is very significant in my life.  When I am down and weary, I just stare upon on our colorful parols here in the seminary, then it suddenly eases the burden of my problems.  From this simple experience of mine about the uniqueness of the parol, it utters something that I should always take into consideration into my life, i.e. my faith in Christ who is to come.  The coming of Christ is so near and the message of His coming is not all about fear and delusion, but joy and compassion.  Just like the parol that gives joy and hope this Christmas, it’s the same with Christ who is to come.  Why should I be fear in facing life’s trials and struggles if the dead-end of all these things is contentment and happiness in life?  Why should I be bothered if hope is possible and promising for all seasons and out of seasons?  Definitely, it takes a lot of faith.  So, the parol is not just a simple decoration for Christmas, but it also disseminates a message for all of us, i.e. in Christ coming there will be no more tears to shed and no more pain to endure.

Just One Step at a Time

One-Step-At-A-Time-800x600It really takes one single step in order that we may be able to reach his/her dreams and aspirations in life.  To dream and to aspire for something and to make it come true is easy to say than do.  As I reflect upon this reality one question popped-up into my mind; why do we never get tired of dreaming, hoping, and aspiring even though sometimes we failed to achieve our dreams in life?  In my search for answers this is what I realized; we never get tired of dreaming, hoping, and aspiring for something good because we are adequately considered seekers for happiness and for a better life.  We are born seekers.  We have also the tendency to long for something that will make us successful and complete.  So, we persevere, we work hard, and we do our very best to make our lives.  Hence, our life’s journey will never be fruitful and fulfilling unless we take one step at a time.

The path of success and contentment will never become a reality into our lives unless we hold on to the wisdom of a single step.  Thus, the old maxim is right in echoing to our consciousness this one of the lesson in life about success; “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  Despite the fact that success is sometimes demanding, the wisdom of a single step will always remind us that we should never lose our sight in hoping and chasing our dreams and aspirations in life.  Our life will never be the same like before if and only if we take a single step in order for us to move on.  Life will always be brighter every day when we always take one step at a time.

Chasing success is a road less travel.  Despite this reality one thing that I’ve learned and realized as I reflected upon the wisdom of a single step is not to give up the journey.  A single step may be insignificant on the first look, but every single step, if combined, is our assurance to move on in living our dreams that we long for.

My Experience as a “WIMPY” blogger (Part 6)

Bored-ImageDays have passed and I am still in difficulty to produce something catchy, inspiring, and entertaining for my blog.  So, I feel so bored today as I really try to be consistent in updating my blog.  As I really felt down and tardy today, I fall down on my knees and pray in front of the crucifix.  This is what I prayed to the Lord:

Lord, I would like to write something on my blog, but I don’t know what I should write.  It seems I am not inspired and my mind does not produce insightful thoughts that are intended for inspiring my readers and praising you.  I asked myself; Is this a manifestation that words are insufficient to describe how immense is Your love for me and for those who long for it?  Truly enough, words are insufficient for me to describe and to feel the intensity of Your love.  Truly enough, words fly but Your love remains the same.

Lord, I have a dream, i.e. to inspire and motivate people through my insights, writings, and speeches.  But, I admit, I am incapable on these things.  My insights are not appealing to the people because it sounds ordinary and intriguing especially when it pertains to my identity and personality.  I am not a good writer, because my mind and my hands are too clumsy.  I am not a good speaker because I have a stage-fright and I am not also appealing to the audience.  Lord, even though I don’t have the guts and I am incapable to motivate and inspire people through my insights, writings, and speeches; please help me to attain those aspirations of mine.  Lord, I see myself as a motivational speaker and writer someday, but fear hinders me to chase and to fulfill these dreams.  Lord, take me out from this fear and boredom, so that I may attain these longings of my heart.  May you also enlighten my heart and mind, so that through the gifts that I am longing, I may be able to love you all the more and all of my being.  Lord, if it’s your will, THY WILL BE DONE. Amen.

Sounds sloppy right!  Actually, for me it sounds romantic because this is how I love the Lord; i.e. being sincere and honest about what I feel, what’s on my mind, and what’s happening to me in front of Him.