By Kevin Joshua B. Cosme
It’s Good Shepherd Sunday! That means it’s time for us seminarians to go around parishes sharing our stories of vocation. Except none of us are actually going anywhere because of this lockdown, so allow me to share a bit of my story here. It’s about how the Good Shepherd has been pasturing this particularly lethargic sheep.
I entered San Carlos Seminary in Makati City ten years ago, straight out of high school. Back then I didn’t know what to expect, just that I felt so sure that God was calling me to be a priest. Unlike some of my classmates, I didn’t feel too homesick in my first few months, maybe because the seminary quickly became like another home to me. I guess that’s what happens when you start living your dream.
But the thing about me is that I’m a homebody. My idea of a good time is staying indoors doing nothing. (Hurray, quarantine). The mere thought of work sends my already low levels of energy plummeting. I’m also really introverted, so prolonged social interaction feels like a necessary evil to me, or at least it used to.
Can you imagine spending a decade in the seminary with that kind of temperament? You never run out of things to do there, and you’re always surrounded by people, exactly the opposite of what I wanted in life. So there was (and is) this constant tension between my desire for priesthood, which entails work, leadership, and social interaction, and my inclination toward a stress-free, go-with-the-flow, solitary existence.
I blame the Lord for complicating my life, but I wouldn’t have had it otherwise! It took some years in the seminary for this to sink in, but I eventually realized that my desire for an easygoing life was untenable. There is no such thing as a problem-free life, and neither is it desirable to have one. I mean, what use is a blunt knife? A chunk of metal is just a mass of potential – dull, heavy, and kind of useless – unless you sand and grind it into a sharp edge, or a work of art, or maybe even both. That’s what the Lord has been trying to do with me all these years.
Let’s go back to an earlier image. There’s all kinds of sheep, running the gamut from fence-climbing black sheep to timid sheep who refuse even to leave the sheepfold and graze with the others. I’m a bit of both, but obviously more of the latter. The problem with the sheep that doesn’t heed the Shepherd’s voice and keeps wandering off is that it becomes easy pickings for wolves or robbers. On the other hand, the sheep that refuses to budge despite the Shepherd calling him forth grows sickly from lack of food and exercise, making it more likely to die from sheep-flu or something, or maybe even boredom.
So me? I’ve lost count of the number of times that the Good Shepherd has had to go on a search-and-rescue for me, or of the times when He’s had to poke and prod me to get off my lazy butt, out of the sheepfold and into the grazing grounds. (It makes me wonder why He keeps such stubborn sheep in the first place.) But I don’t think I can ever be grateful enough for all His care and patience. Calling Him “good” is a huge understatement.
If anything, I’ve learned two things in the seminary. First, there’s a time to stay in the sheepfold and a time to go outside. And second, you have to listen to the Shepherd’s voice to know when to do which. So listen to that voice. Love that voice. Because if you heed it, you’re sure to be led to greener pastures. I learned that that’s what vocation is all about.