Today many dioceses in India celebrate the Vocation Sunday — specially the vocations to priesthood and religious life (Married and Single life are equally precious vocations… pointless to rate one high or one low). An oft quoted statement in such occasions is the one given in the image. And we do give examples of apostles, many saints (especially St John Vianney); many priests and religious would say we also belong to that category. I have also used the same in my power-points in the past. But today, I feel a little uneasy with it.
‘God doesn’t call the qualified’ — I have serious problems with this line. ‘God qualifies the called’ — I am okay with the second part though it could also be mis-interpreted.
God doesn’t call the qualified — does it mean qualification are preventing us from being called. I have put down some of my objections.
- The qualification per se is not God’s work. God would work only after the call.
- It says that God’s call is only for a few people — especially ones who are not qualified. (We give the example of Peter and say he was unqualified, and was only qualified after the call; Peter was a good fisher-man. He was equipped, may not be with the preaching ability, but with the skills of a fisher-man).
- Call is not something that happens on one particular day. It is an ongoing process started from the time of our birth. [I don’t deny the occurrence of some special moments in the lives of people. But we can’t say God was absent till that time].
The second part is much more acceptable to me. God qualifies the called. Or in other-words he just continues to qualify everyone (all are called). Each one would be qualified with the gifts s/he requires. It is just that our society considers some qualifications as more important. (A prophet, a leader is considered more influential than a farmer or a labourer or a house wife. I think those are societal qualifications and we shouldn’t attribute such partiality to God).
A problem with this part is that, the so-called “called people” could justify their actions by saying that we are already qualified by the Lord. Our past may have been disastrous, but at present we are qualified. (I don’t have any problem in accepting the voices of transformed or converted people; but it can’t be taken for granted just on the basis of call).
If these two statements were completely true, all the religious leaders (even all people) would have been great, and religion per se wouldn’t have been disliked by many. What we miss in those lines are the aspect that along with what God does, there is an aspect of human response and responsibility which is there for all the moments of our life (not just for the special yes on the special day).
I conclude by putting one request (for those sharing vocation stories or sharing testimonies);
Don’t make everything that has happened in your life, before a special moment, so trivial (wearing a special garb of humility) in order to glorify the transformation after that moment. GOD is always working with you and not only after that special moment. Special moment is special, but we don’t need to denigrate the past before it.
[I know there could be alternative interpretations and justifications for that statement. I am open to them. I just put down one perspective].