We Are Called
When I was reading the Gospel, it reminded me of my calling as a deaconess. When I decided to become a deaconess, I was interviewed by my local pastor and deaconess before I applied at Harris Memorial College, a training school for deaconesses in the Philippines. They briefed me with gentleness that to be in ministry is not a bed of roses and that there will be thorns along the way!
At that moment, I asked myself, “Is this a warning?”
I took it as advice and a challenge knowing that God will always be with me on my journey. I became firmer with my calling and it gave me much hope! I believed then that I was called for a purpose. Thankful for God-given gifts and talents, that I knew I could offer to fulfill God’s mission.
“Take up the Cross”
The cross represents the oppression and sufferings of the people and the hardships and challenges that we as disciples of Christ will encounter along the way while we are fulfilling God’s mission.
We confront the sufferings and stand against the oppressions of the people – racism, poverty, unjust wars, and militarization – so communities, or our siblings will not have to live with such oppressive situations and continue to bear its unnecessary cross. We help them live their life abundantly.
Our calling as deaconesses is a commitment to help alleviate suffering, eradicate the injustices that rob human dignity, and help develop the full human potential. It is a vocation to follow Christ.
As followers of Christ, we focus on God’s mission and be intentional in fulfilling God’s mission. I was reminded of a song, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus!” We fix our eyes on Jesus, remember what we are called for, and what God can do!
What are we commissioned to do?
We are constantly responding to people who are hurting. Jesus spent time with people who were broken, sick, and oppressed. Jesus went about doing good. Jesus healed the sick – the paralyzed, the lepers. Jesus gave hope and sympathized with Mary and Martha who were grieving. He taught the children; and fed the hungry and the poor. Jesus was present.
Where are we spending most of our time and our resources?
We are God’s servants appointed and commissioned by God to care for one another with deep compassion. We are called to create a community where justice, hope, and peace become a reality. Once we act, hope is spread. We continue to advocate and be in solidarity with the marginalized. We are in allyship, which means we support and take action!
We are not alone in this mission; we are a part of God’s community. Peter was afraid when Jesus said that He would suffer, Peter responded NEVER! We can connect, serve, and act collectively. We can come together to be partners and create a society where God’s love and presence are alive!
Jesus reminded the disciples and continues to remind us today not to be self-absorbed but to take up the cross, and follow Him. We set aside our unhelpful personal wishes and desires, but be ready and present to listen to the cries of the people and focus on the needs of the most vulnerable.
We are called for a purpose.
Suffering, injustice, poverty, hunger, homelessness, racism, discrimination, killings, and wars are everywhere! Where are we in this context?
In closing, I want to share some of the highlights of Rev Daisy Machado’s message during our retreat at the Chautauqua Institution in New York, her topic was “Rachel weeps!”
“Today there is weeping in Africa, Asia and other parts of the world…
Seeking shelter to rebuild their lives, from famine and war.
A time comes when silence is betrayal!
Saw deep fear. It becomes a military zone… helicopter flies over the wall
We have been taught to have fear
No one knows how many bodies are recovered
What is this happening?
Immigrants are exploited.
It affects the dignity of every human being
Remember Mary and Joseph. They were treated as illegals and lived in fear.
Who will care for Jesus when they get arrested? Immigration is not a criminal act.
They leave their country because it is a must! They did not come to be illegals, but to live. There is a divine dream!”
How do we respond to the dreams and hopes of the people?
I saw the perseverance of mothers seeking justice and fighting for human rights, whose families were massacred in the Philippines. There was a photo of one of the victims posted on the wall with a note that said, “Justice for all the victims…. Rise up!” We are called to rise and keep moving, to never give up hope. We are with these mothers in their journey. We empathize with them and help them amplify their voice.
Let us remember our calling, what we are called for, why we are called, and where are we called to fulfill God’s mission. God is always calling us. As long as there is suffering, the mission continues! The call to service is for life! We are called to create a world with love, justice, equality, and an abundance of life for the people! Let us stand firm to our calling.
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.
Take up the cross, and follow me!
Open our eyes that we may see
Open our ears that we may hear
Fill us with hope and know that your love and presence is alive.
Give us the courage to give our lives so that others may live abundantly.
Gospel reflection of Dss. Ellen Dizon of the United Methodist Church for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time. MATTHEW 16:21-27