by Rev. Fr. Tristan Jasper D. Laforteza
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (February 10, 2019). When I was ordained into the Holy Priesthood last September 23, 2011, I came to realize—with all humility—that everything becomes a grace because of God. I believe that the gift of Ordination does not speak of my abilities and accomplishments, but of the goodness of the God who has called me in spite of my imperfections and limitations.
I entered the Maria Assumpta Seminary in the year 1997 as a freshman student. At first, this was solely my parent’s decision because they wanted my brother and I to be away from vices and bad influences. After high school, I was supposed to take Civil Engineering so that I could continue our family business. But being in the minor seminary allowed me to discover myself and realize my strengths and weaknesses. I found fulfillment in teaching and encouraging others, and this became my way of expressing myself and reaching out to other people. Although I did not think of pursuing other careers, I felt that I would not find the same gratification that I gained as a seminarian. I eventually took my Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy in the same seminary and finished my Master’s degree in Theology at the San Carlos Seminary, Makati City in 2010.
Finally, after 14 years of seminary formation, I was ordained into the priesthood on September 23, 2011, the feast day of St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina.
Brothers and sisters, I shared with you my own story of vocation primarily because the readings in this Sunday speak of the ‘calling’ of three individuals who took part in the divine mission of God. The First Reading tells about the call of Isaiah to become a prophet. It is said, He touched my mouth with it, and said, “See, now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” “Here I am,” I said; “send me” (Is. 6:1-2a, 3-8). Meanwhile, the Second Reading describes to us a glimpse of St. Paul’s conversion and vocation to be an Apostle. St. Paul would say, Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me.
For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective (1 Cor. 15:1-11). Likewise, the Gospel narrates to us the call of Simon the Fisherman. It is mentioned, when Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him (Lk. 5:1-11).
In the stories of these three great men, we would come to realize that God does actually call and choose neither the perfect nor best the option to do His tasks. Each of them had their individual weaknesses and limitations inasmuch as I had when God called me to become a priest. They likewise knew that following Him might be too difficult, challenging, or even impossible. However, God never fails in all His plans and decisions.
Therefore, as I fulfill my mission, I sincerely believe and hope that the Lord will continue to sustain me.
Finally, let me share with you these words of an author, “God does not call the qualified. He qualifies the called.”