Jeremiah 1, 4-10; Psalm 71; 1 Peter 1, 8-12; Luke 1, 5-17
There is reason for me to have some connection with St. John the Baptist. He is the patron saint of my parents, our pharmacy was named, “Farmacia San Juan”. Every time my family prayed the rosary, my mom would not missed John the Baptist. So what is in him?
First, the role of John the Baptist had been wrought by God even before he was born. His life was predicted in the Old Testament, and I guess, he took his role seriously when he was young.
I still believe that God has written in our hearts the role we are to play in the greater scheme of things. Every person has a place under the sun. Our talents are the tools of our trade. Our mental abilities point to our capacity to discover that role, that vocation where we would be happy and at home with our lives. It is this ability that we are able to reflect to see where we were, where we’re going, and what we were meant to be. It is like looking at a map: there are many roads to take to reach a destination, but there is one which is more ourselves, that which is more familiar. Not that other roads are bad; some roads we just take because we know that path.
Second, the Lord calls us at any point in our lives. Some were called when they were old like Abraham. Some people were given a clear path like St. Paul; a fallen horse, a light from the sky, and then a clear vocation. Some were called when they were young, like Timothy and Jeremiah. In the first reading, Jeremiah complained to God: “Ah, Lord God, I know not how to speak; I am too young.” And God said, “Say not, ‘I am too young.’ Whomever I send you, you shall go; have no fear before them because I am with you to deliver you.”
When I was prenovice, I was 16 years old. Fr. Jojo Magadia SJ, our present provincial, was my prenovitiate director. All I knew, when I was sent to Haggerty Hall in Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro City, was that I wanted to pursue priesthood because it was the path that was familiar to me. I spent most of time as a church musician, and I was at home there. I didn’t know what would happen to me, but it was worth my while. The promise of pursuing the path was irresistible: it is the promise of finding myself and thereby discovering my place under the sun. If it was not for me, God would show another.
And then I was soon discovering what I was up to. The mission of a Jesuit was more than what a 16-year old can bear. The demands of academic life challenged my mental ability. The regularity of prayer challenged my ‘play-it-by-ear’ lifestyle. Artists, they said, were governed by their present interest so everything was volatile. Living with my community, with people who may like or not like me, was grueling. When I was young, I thought the world should adjust to me; but I soon discovered that growing maturely means appreciating the uniqueness of individuals and learning to love them in their differences. I was not the only one adjusting to them; they were also adjusting to me.
The point was simple: I thought it was about me, my abilities, my talents, my work. Slowly I realized working in the vineyard of the Lord was not a solo show. It was with companions. God with me. Fellow Jesuits at my side. Friends and families around me. I was not alone.
Finally, I learned something about fear and control. John the Baptist left his family and lived in the desert. He responded to God’s call even if it meant living in an inhospitable place. He had to face his fear and let go of the comforts of his home.
Unless we face fear, we will not be able to name and identify what paralyzes us and prevents us from growing. Unless we let go, we will not be able to find our lives. We need courage to follow our hearts. We need to let go to find God. Those who found God in the prenovitiate, whether in or out of the Society of Jesus, discovered their place under the sun.