I was just in my third grade when I realized I wanted to become a priest. But I kept it to myself because I’m afraid people would make fond of me if I’d tell them. I kept it to myself because my family is poor and I heard people’s talks that it is very expensive to become a priest. This childhood desire of mine had to be suppressed even more when my Father died. I come from the middle in the family of 11 but I am the eldest son. So being the big brother somehow, I had to stop my high school studies. I had to take on some of the big responsibilities left by my Father and assisted my mum in raising my younger siblings. I then started to lose hope that I’d become a priest. To enter the seminary one has to finish his high school studies, but I missed two years of it. Anyhow, God finds his way in to make his call even louder. He provided me another opportunity to realize my dream. The department of Education announced that those youth who have stopped schooling can undergo a certain examination and if lucky he/she would be accelerated through to the University. I took the exam. I was lucky. I got it. I skipped two years of my high school and was eligible to enrol in the Uni. To make the long story short, I entered the seminary, studied for 11 years and here I am now, a young priest working as an assistant in a certain Parish.
I am telling you all this because this shows to me, and to us hopefully how lovely is our God who calls us to follow him. The journey might not be a smooth one, since it never will be but He would help us along the way. He does not make the mountain smaller so to speak, but he makes the climbing easier. Yes, I am a priest. Many here today are married. Some are still looking for a ‘special friend’ in Facebook or wherever. Some are still starting their lives as young Adult, as student, or whatever. But all of us are here because we are all called by God. We who are here today in this Church are Christians, because we are called by Christ to follow him. Our being a Christian, a Catholic at that, does not depend on what we do. It does not depend on who we were then, or who we have become now. It does not depend on our family background, or on our social status. Rather it all depends on the specific and the unique call of Christ for each one of us.
Last Sunday, we heard Jesus inviting his first two disciples to ‘come and see’ where he lives and they ‘stayed’ with him. This Sunday, we hear Jesus again inviting us, not just to ‘come and see where he lives’ or to stay with him but to leave everything behind and follow him. Jesus called his first disciples from the very place where they are working for a living- casting or cleaning their nets for they were fishermen. God meets us where we are. We don’t have to pretend to be somebody else or someone we are not. We just have to make ourselves available for him. The disciples left their boats, their nets, even their father and followed him. But we may say: ‘It is not Good News when we have to leave everything behind and follow him right away.’ Yes, it is not. But St Paul in our Second Reading would tell us what does ‘leaving everything behind’ mean. For St Paul it means ‘detachment’ to certain things in this world and hope for the coming one. It is very crucial and challenging call because we are in the world when everything has a price somehow. We are in the world when things are advertised to be necessary and valuable only to realize later on that they are nothing and that they have nothing to offer. We are in the world when things or possessions are deemed to be the measure for one’s success. Detachment means, according to a certain author: ‘Putting away the bag of peanuts after tasting the first one.’
Our day and age, with all its challenges and frustrations are in fact reminders for us to review how are we in our following of Jesus. Following him today means going beyond ourselves. I wasn’t dreaming of coming to Australia. But Bishop Joe went there and explained to us the lack of priests in here, so I went beyond myself and came here and now here I am with you. What happens if we wouldn’t go beyond ourselves?
The Prophet Jonah in our First Reading today tried to miss the call of God for him. He does not think or maybe he does not like that the Gentiles would hear about our Good, loving and forgiving God. So he wanted not to do what God told him to. But God finds his way in, as he always does. He turns everything around. As we have heard, Jonah preached, the people of Nineveh listened, repented and God had shown mercy to them. In and through our baptism, God has commissioned us to go and proclaim the Good News of God. We don’t have to be the expert or the know-all. God wants to use no matter who we are.
Our Eucharist is also another wonderful way of following Him. In the Eucharist we are witnessing the great sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and thus become part of that great saving act of God for us. The Eucharist is a concrete witness for us that we are called by God and that we are loved by him.
So as we continue our Eucharist today let’s celebrate the fact that we are called by God to be with him, to be his witnesses, regardless of our personal circumstances and regardless of our humanity. We just have to listen to him, to turn back to him every time we fall, and to try our best to be faithful in following him. Amen.