2nd Sunday in Ordinary Times
Sam.3:3-10,19; 1 Cor. 6:13-15,17-20; Gospel John 1:35-42
Running from Pain?  Live a Discerning Life of God's Will

Preached by Msgr Philip Heng, SJ at Cathedral of the Good Shepherd - Singapore, on 14 January 2018

In today’s First Reading Prophet Samuel heard God calling him, “Samuel, Samuel!”  Samuel answered, “Here I am” and ran to Eli the priest of the Temple and asked him what it was.  He then found out that Eli did not call him.  This was repeated two more times, until Eli realised that it was God who was calling Samuel.  So, Eli advised Samuel, “If someone calls again say, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”  Samuel did just that, in obedience.  Scripture tells us that, from then on, “Samuel grew up and the Lord was with him . . .”  Psalm 39’s response today reaffirms Prophet Samuel’s response to the Lord when it says, "Here I am Lord! I come to do Your Will";

My brothers and sisters in Christ, our faith and the wisdom of the Church and indeed the lives of all the holy men and women, and canonised saints and martyrs testify that other than living in God’s Will and Ways, there are no other ways of living that can assure us of living a happy and fulfilling life.  As such, we all know and believe that like Prophet Samuel, we too should say to our Lord daily, “Here I am Lord! I come to do You Will.”  However, you and I also know, and experience that the daily living out of God’s Will is far more complex and challenging than we think. 

The discerning of God’s Will is essentially learning to find God’s Presence and His Protective Care and Love for us in all the situations of our lives, whether past, present or future.  However, the reality of discernment is complex, primarily because it is emotionally engaging and draining.  In my many years as a Spiritual Director for many people who desire to seek and do God’s Will, the biggest temptation in discernment is to give-in to the demands of our emotions, instead of choosing God’s Will.  The intense inner struggles and inner battle between choosing God’s Will and our own will are real, complex and can be emotionally overwhelming. 

Jesus in His Wisdom says, “The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” . . . In other words, our hearts may be willing and desiring to do God’s Will, but the actual facing of the truth of ourselves and others are too complex for many if not most of us to manage.  St Paul himself admits in his letter to the community in Rome, (Rom. 7: 15-16) “I cannot understand my own behaviour.  I fail to carry out the things I want to do, and I find myself doing the very things I hate.” 

My sisters and brothers in Christ, it is important for us to note that even if we are good practicing Catholic Christians and is a well-intentioned discerner who wants to seek and do God’s Will, the greatest temptation and biggest obstacle in discernment is to give-in to our fears of pain and suffering.  We all fear pain . . . and we often end up giving-in to such fears and as such, we do not choose God’s Will, even though in our heart of hearts we all know and believe that only God’s Will can give us the true peace, happiness and fulfilment in life. 

Let us take the case of Michelle who works very hard in her firm and comes home exhausted late in the evening.  Her husband, who also works long hours is constantly upset with her and blames her for not caring for their teenage children who are showing signs of immoral behaviours.  Michelle refuses to talk to her husband, because she says to herself, “there is no point talking to my husband; he doesn’t care and understand the struggles I am going through in both my work and bringing up my children; he is only thinking of himself . . . and would not listen to any thing I say . . . I have enough of all his nonsense; I am going to seek legal advice to begin the process of getting a divorce; that way, I think the children would find more peace instead of having to see us quarrel all the time.

Let us take another case.  In this scenario, John has been a religious priest for many years, and has faced painful challenges of wanting to leave his vocation because he finds that his superiors do not understand him and his community is also not giving him the needed support.  Two months ago, his superiors made the decision to send him to teach in a school.  John was very upset because he wanted to serve the poor and the needy of his village.  In is prayer, he does not find consolation.  So, he is now very tempted to leave his vocation because he is not happy with what he is sure with teaching in a school.

My sisters and brothers in Christ, we can see from our two illustrations of Michelle and John that the “inner battles” they go through are common examples of struggles in our vocations.  Such challenges can also similarly happen when we have to deal with a very unreasonable boss at work /or when we are serving the Church and yet, facing many painful challenges of “in-fighting, back biting and disharmony” in our ministries or indeed, when we are facing conflicts and disagreements in our relationships, with family in our homes between siblings and relatives.  

My brothers and sisters in Christ, in both the cases of Michelle and John, we can see and even understand that in such cases, if they do not truly discern carefully, and if we should find ourselves in such similar situations that need discernment, we would find that sadly for many of us, we would likely cave in as we would fall into the temptation of allowing the path that is “less painful and less challenging” to become the outcome of our “inner struggles.” 

Basically, when such choices are made, if Michelle were to seek for divorce and John were to leave his priesthood vocation, then they would in all probability then “try to convince themselves” and justify their decisions of breaking up their family and giving up on their priesthood and religious vocation.  One common “justification” is to “use” God; for that they would claim that the pain and suffering they are undergoing are signs from God that the vocation are not meant for them. 

My sisters and brothers in Christ, if we should turn away from God’s Will, whatever they may be, we would experience a “temporary” relieve.  However, such “relieve” will not last because we have actually “deceived” ourselves into thinking that we now no longer have to face the pain that we had to face before our decision to quit our vocation. 

In fact, on the contrary, what would usually happen is that we will find out sooner or later that we have jumped from the frying pan into the fire.  In other words, we will discover that we have in fact turned away from God’s call for us to enter into a life of deeper union with Him . . . And this is because we were not able or not willing to accept the challenges of the crosses that we were called to carry, as Jesus did out of love for us, and His total fidelity to His Father’s Will. 

In conclusion, let us remind ourselves that when we face challenges in life, especially in relationships, in our family, or at work or in our homes or in the service of our Church ministries, let us never “run away from pain and suffering”; only immature adolescences do that.  But as adults, let us face the challenges with maturity and with the wisdom to continue to persevere with the committed Love that Jesus has shown us.  Let us then accept the crosses that we are called to carry in our vocation, as Jesus Himself carried His Cross for our sake and Salvation.  With God as our Light and Strength and Jesus as our Hope, as all the saints have witnessed to us, it is not impossible to be faithful to God . . .

For this, like the Apostles Andrew and Peter, let us accept Jesus’ invitation to “Come and See” and get to know Jesus more personally . . . and then in our love for Jesus, let us then live the fullness of God’s Will as Jesus has shown us . . . .


Fr Philip Heng,S.J.

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