I am sometimes asked why I became a priest. The short answer is, “I got tired of saying no to God.” The longer answer is more involved. I have never intentionally said “No” to God nor ever desired to do anything but God’s will. But my yeses have been qualiﬁed in ways that allowed me to stay in control. I have tried to make good choices in my life and God, in His goodness, has helped me succeed at everything I have seriously undertaken. As a Peace Corps Volunteer engineer in India, God helped me meet an exceptional entrepreneur with whom I worked for two and a half years building a Malleable Iron Foundry that was the first of its kind in the state of Kerala. It was employing 100 people when we left.
As an electrical engineer in the United States I helped design and build the command and telemetry module for the first ATS communication satellite, the satellite to ﬁrst have transponders capable of sending signals powerful enough to be received by small antennas on earth, similar to the ones we use for satellite TV reception today, rather than antennas the size of a house. I was kept for three years while 50 percent of the engineers were laid off during that time.
Though I always seemed to succeed in what I undertook, something was missing in my life. I began to pray each morning for God’s help to discern His will for me. Marriage and priesthood seemed to be my options but there was no clear tug toward either. After a year of sincere prayer the pieces began to come together like the pieces of a puzzle. I was able to said “yes” to what I discerned to be God’s call to the priesthood. I accepted with total commitment and without any reservations. I felt inner peace and a willingness to accept whatever and wherever God called me. My life was to be His.
Looking back at my 35 years as a priest, I know I could not have planned a more rewarding life than God has provided me. I have been a missionary in Africa, a missionary to migrant workers in California and a missionary to Native Americans in Arizona. I have been privileged to live among and work with many who are poor.
Though all are not called to the priesthood, I believe many are who do not accept the call. In a country like the U.S. where we have been so blessed so much by God, we should have an excess of priests and be sending missionaries to other countries rather than asking other countries to send missionaries to minister to our parishes. Our children lack the encouragement and support they need to be open to and accept the call to the priesthood. But whatever God’s call, each of us needs to listen and be open to God speaking to us in our hearts. God always endows us with the special gifts we need to accomplish His will. Every individual is capable of accomplishing many things in life, and for many, to be able to accomplish all of them, we must choose. Listening to God’s inner call allows us to choose and accomplish what God desires of us and to experience the special joy of cooperating with God.
God calls every human being in a general way and in a particular way and each call includes three elements. The general call is to accept God alone and above all else. The particular call is to some special life commitment or vocation such as marriage, religious life or the priesthood or to professions that require the development of special skills.
The three elements associated with these calls are found in the first call from God recorded in the Bible, the call to Abram, a nomadic tribesman in the book of Genesis. Abram was discontent watching people pray for divine favors from lifeless images made by human hands. Abram longed to ﬁnd a true God, a living God. God responded to Abram’s desire and spoke to him saying, “Abram…Go forth from your country, and from your relative’s and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Gen l2:l-3). Abram had ask for nothing of God except to ﬁnd Him but God promised him more than he could have ever imagined.
The three elements in Abram’s call are a call to something, a call from something and a promise greater than he could have hoped for. Abram was called to accept the living God who had revealed himself to him, to place his faith and trust in Him alone and to follow His guidance to a place he did not know. Abram was called ﬁom all worldly attachments and securities: his family, his tribe and the land where he grew up and was familiar. Abraham was promised by God a new place, a new land that would be his own, where his descendents would become a nation of their own. The rest of the Bible records the marvelous consequences of Abram’s yes to God. Even when many of Abram’s descendants were unfaithful to God, God always searched out a faithful remnant to become the nation of Israel. They became known throughout the world for their faith in one True God. From the descendants of Abram came Christ “into the world “to save all of mankind who would accept and follow.
These three elements are found in God’s general call to all people in the following way. Jesus Christ calls people from all nations to be baptized into His resurrected life and to have faith in him alone. He calls us from worldly allurements that offer false security in order to trust totally in God and to begin to live as part of the kingdom of God at hand now. God’s promises exceed all that we can imagine, even resurrection from the dead and life eternal with God in heaven.
Our personal call ﬁrom God is also threefold. Each of us is called to a particular life vocation. Of this St. Paul writes: “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without hypocrisy.” (Rom. 12:4-11) God promises each individual more than they would ever wk of him.
Because one must leave worldly things behind to accept God’s call, it is only natural to question what we get in return. It is the question, Peter once asked of Jesus, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?” And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.” (Matt. 19:27-29) Jesus assures us that whatever we give up of our will to follow God’s will, will be much more than compensated for.
Like me during the first 29 years of my life, many people search for God without being fulﬁlled. They hold back portions of their lives from God. They want God to conform His wiIl to theirs rather than to conform their will to God’s. In the prayer Jesus taught to the Apostles, Jesus teaches that we should desire, “(God’s) will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” When we conform our wills to God’s will, He promises everything we will ever truly need and eternal life as well. All are called by God to trust in Him alone and to follow Him alone. Those who accept experience the inner joy God promises. It is a free choice that must be made. The consequence will be temporal Earthly pleasure or lasting joy from God’s divine grace.
Featured photo: Abraham receives the Angels