Friday, June 24, 2011

No red carpets for great missions

It used to be the case that scouting agents from major universities rolled out the red carpet for gifted high school athletes. In order to get them to attend their university, these scouting agents would give high school students a sizable bonus, such as cash or a new car. Such an incentive is hard to resist and for that reason, it probably worked most of the time.

However, when God calls us to something great, his approach is different. God’s recruitment tactics does not involve rolling out the red carpet. In fact, it is just the opposite. When God has a special assignment for us- whether it be leading one soul to Christ or leading many souls to Christ –he gives us a cross. That’s right! God allows obstacles, trials, and setbacks to come in our way.

Not infrequently, we become acquainted with the bitter disappointments of what seems to be successive failures. Under such conditions, it is not uncommon for a soul being tested to doubt his mission; or even worse, to doubt God’s love and providential wisdom. Pushed to the limit! That’s what a panting and fatigued soul feels when climbing the mountain of God’s mission.

With that said, great faith is merited by great trials. God knows that every person must be equal to his mission. In this life, trial is the school of virtue and the training ground for being an apostle! With God, unlike the college scout, the fast and famine comes first and then the feast follows.

This pattern of God’s training ground was applied to the great ones of the bible. Abraham was just one out of many. But in considering his example, we can draw some useful lessons for our own lives.

Abraham was privileged to be the father of God’s people. However, as with all of God’s chosen ones, Abraham was put through the ringer. For instance, God had promised Abraham that a far off land would belong to him and his descendants. As a result, Abraham picked up everything that he owned, and with his tribe, he traveled many miles to the land of Canaan (later to be known as the Promised Land- Israel). The only problem was that soon after he arrived, the land was hit with a famine. Consequently, Abraham’s tribe had to migrate to Egypt for food. Mind you, this was at least an eleven day journey.

But his trials didn’t end there. When he got to Egypt, the Pharaoh confiscated Sarah, Abraham’s wife. (By the way, he did get her back.) And then after years of being barren, God blessed Abraham and Sarah with a baby boy named Isaac. When Isaac was of age, God called Abraham to offer his son as a holocaust. Of course, this was a test. But Abraham wasn’t informed of this until the very last second.

Even today, God’s method of recruiting is the same. But why does God do it? What is the value of having trials in our mission? There are three benefits we can glean from this pattern: First, is to strengthen and purify our love for God. Second, is to strengthen our trust in God. Third, is to make us docile to his will.

Like his heavenly Father, Christ does not use the tactics of a scout in recruiting people for great missions. The red carpet was no where to found for St. Joseph, Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Apostles. Nor should we expect it when we have been called to undertake the Lord’s cause. Pope Leo XIII said that “no man can hope for eternal reward unless he follows in the blood-stained footprints of his Savior.” This is not the kind of language we are used to hearing; and for that reason, it might sound harsh to our modern sensibilities.

Nevertheless, when we are burdened, fatigued and perhaps discouraged by the weight of today’s trials, let us remember the words of St. Ambrose: "If you are being tested, know that a crown is being prepared for you."

In the absence of the red carpet- when the road is uphill and rocky -let us remember the crown! God has not forgotten about you. Your trials were a part of his plan from all eternity.