vesselI could still recall the recollection facilitated by Fr. Politi some six years ago when I was still in Rome. Oh, how my classmates liked it. They were struck by the image of the earthen vessel presented to us by the facilitator, but not that much on me. Maybe because of the language problem and my poor image of who a missionary is at that time when I was still at the beginning of my journey.
After more than six years, the same image was presented to us by our facilitator Msgr. Gerry Santos during our annual retreat on October 20-24 at Don Bosco, Batulao, Batangas. Yes, that image of the earthen vessel was once again put in front of me for reflection. It was also the time when I was about to write my request for the admission to the order of presbyter. Once more St. Paul addressed me to think about his experiences of being afflicted, perplexed, persecuted and struck down (2 Cor. 4:8-9).
I was “disturbed”. I thank God for disturbing me from my illusions. It was a disturbance that renewed my vision, that gave new meanings to my past experiences that almost drove me away from his side. It was a consoling disturbance. It stirred my heart thinking that I will be carrying in my weak and fragile self the most precious treasure called Jesus. It caused tensions between my being a simple container and the greatness of the call, between the joy of bringing the Gospel to others and the fear of knowing that I may face the same experience of Paul and of the many other Paul’s of our time. It was a consoling disturbance because Paul assured us that God will not drive us to despair, that He will not abandon me, he will not submit me to destruction, and I will not be constrained.
The images of the earthen vessel made me look back my past with no bitterness but with a smile in my heart. It made me look to the future with greater hope and less anxiety. I thought that I would never overcome those trials and struggles when I started to say “yes” to this call, from the Euntes experience to Rome and back here in Tagaytay. I discovered that denials perish and healing comes whenever I open myself to the Spirit through prayers. Comfort, consolation and strength come along with healing. It hurts to come out of my shell. It pains to be pruned. But these are always  for me to grow and to glow. God makes it  sure to fill the emptiness of my vessel so that I keep on going towards the direction He wills for me.
Here I am with a pen and a paper in front of me, thinking of the proper words for the request. With a smile on my lips I ask God why He took the risk  to call and choose me to become a missionary, to become a vessel of the Treasure. Anyway, He already took the risks in creating human beings and who am I not to take risks, too. For sure He who called me will never abandon me. This reminds me of Fr. Sandalo’s  words to me when I was still an aspiring young leader in our parish to take risks. He used to tell me that I would never feel what joy in success and triumph is without risking. But he also scolded me when I put my vocation to a risky situation!
I believe that the experience of perplexity will always hang around. The anxiety and fear of not knowing exactly what lies ahead in mission, where the Spirit will lead me and how to tame and conquer the enemies called loneliness, discouragement, isolation and self-centeredness. These things would somehow make me grope in darkness but God assures me that He will not drive us to despair.
A week ago I read the news about Fr. Tentorio that a group of paramilitaries wanted his head. This, again, shame my dream of an ideal mission, of a place where I will feel secure. Woe to me! Those dreams almost pushed me to forget the images of the PIME missionaries I met during exposures, the images of those who are living in situations they did not choose to be in, the martyrs who shed their blood in my own country for the sake of the Gospel. I confess that many of them, in their own ways, somehow showed me what “kenosis’ is in mission. Goodbye dreams, welcome mission!
Few months from now (if God willing) I will be ordained a missionary priest and will be sent to mission. There is that mixed feeling of fear and excitement in knowing that I will carry the Treasure to other land, peoples and culture. The joy and laughter will be there, and so with the tears and pains. These will be mixed into one as I try to live in communion with others. Whatever may happen, like St. Paul, I will exclaimed, too, that it is all for the sake of Christ. When brokenness  comes I would gladly go back to my “potter’s house” and let myself be mold again and again until I become once again a worthy earthen vessel of the Treasure that radiates light, light that unveils truth, truth that gives life, life that begets life.