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Monday, 16 March 2015 13:53

Discerning the call to consecrated life: excuses (Part 1)

Sr Margaret Ghosn mshfIf we listen more deeply to God's insistent call, we are drawn to God who desires to see the world comforted and loved through us, writes Maronite Sister Margaret Ghosn in the first of her two-part piece for CRA's Reflection Series on the Year of Consecrated Life.

There is much to reflect on as Religious in this Year of Consecrated Life. There is also much to consider when young people ask us to assist in their discernment to consecrated life. Discernment and consecrated life can pass through periods of great struggle, yet one is not alone. The great prophet Moses is our companion on this particular journey. So we turn our attention to Exodus chapters 3 and 4 and reflect on Moses’ excuses.

1. I am unworthy
Moses says in 3:11 ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’ God responds ‘I will be with you.’

There is always the excuse that we are not good enough. Such fear is common as in Lk 5:8 where Simon Peter in the face of a large catch of fish, falls down at Jesus’ feet, proclaiming, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’ Like Moses and Peter, we emphasise our faults, sins and miserableness. Yet despite our weaknesses, if we place our faith in God, one can become a great leader as Moses and Peter proved.

2. I am not close enough to God
Moses says in 3:13 ‘If I come to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you”, and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ God responds ‘I AM WHO I AM.’

Our second excuse is that we do not really know God, so who are we to be God’s messengers? We do not feel we have lived up to the ideal of being in God’s image. Nor have we been intimate enough with God, to really be called to consecrated life. Yet like God’s name reveals, we are people constantly coming into being, and constantly invited to enter more deeply into relationship with the wonderful mystery of God.

3. I will be rejected
Moses says in 4:1 ‘But suppose they do not believe me or listen to me, but say, “The LORD did not appear to you.”' God responds ‘What is that in your hand?’ He said, ‘A staff.’ And he said, ‘Throw it on the ground.’ So he threw the staff on the ground, and it became a snake; and Moses drew back from it. Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Reach out your hand, and seize it by the tail’ - so he reached out his hand and grasped it, and it became a staff in his hand - ‘so that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.’

If we say yes to God, we fear being laughed at, ignored, or mocked. God’s response tells us that we will be given abilities never known to us. God will work through us so that people will recognise grace at work.

4. I am incompetent
Moses says in 4:10 ‘O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.’ God responds ‘Who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak.’

We lack confidence in our ability. How can God call me to consecrated life when I do not know what to say to others or what to do? God’s response reminds us that it is not our doing. Our response should be driven solely by love of God, who will work in us through the Holy Spirit as Lk 12:11-12 states, ‘do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say.’

5. I am afraid
Moses says in 4:13 ‘O my Lord, please send someone else.’  God responds ‘What of your brother Aaron the Levite? I know that he can speak fluently; even now he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you his heart will be glad. You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth; and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and will teach you what you shall do. He indeed shall speak for you to the people; he shall serve as a mouth for you, and you shall serve as God for him.’

And there is one last final plea to escape the call and not take on such responsibility. Yet God’s will cannot be silenced! God’s response tells us we are never alone. Consecrated life is about working alongside others and each person has their own unique talents to offer.

Conclusion
As we see with Moses’ conversation with God, the calling is insistent and the challenges are there. If we listen more deeply, we are drawn into the adventure of God, who desires to see the world comforted and loved through us. That becomes one’s job description, if they answer the call to consecrated life.

Dr Margaret Ghosn is a Maronite Sister of the Holy Family. She is currently Principal at the Maronite College of the Holy Family. She holds an Honorary Fellowship with ACU and is a sessional lecturer for UTC and BBI.

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