“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt 10:39).
The only survivor of a shipwreck washed up on a small, uninhabited island in the midst of the ocean. For months, he prayed feverishly for God to rescue him, and every day he looked out to the horizon to see if a ship would pass by, but nothing appeared. Time passed and it seemed as though no one would come.
Exhausted, he finally decided to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect him from the elements, and to store his few possessions. It took several weeks of hard work to finish. One day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, the smoke ascending up to the sky. The worst had happened; everything was lost. He was filled with grief and anger.
“God, how could you do this to me!” he cried. “Didn’t I have enough to deal with already?” Full of anger, he fell asleep. Early the next day, however, he was awakened by the sound of a ship that was approaching the island. It had come to rescue him. “How did you know I was here?” asked the weary man of his rescuers. “We saw your smoke signal,” they replied.
Sometimes in our life, we place a lot of importance in achieving things until one day we discover that we lost them or are about to lose them. It can be hard to deal with. Yet, when we lose everything and give it to God, something like what happened to the shipwreck survivor also happens to us. We discover that when we lose our few, insignificant possessions, we find something much greater.
Opposition to God’s will
Many people make huge efforts to gain a medal, climb mountains, advance science, become the CEO of their company, gain lots of money, etc. But giving your life to God and serving others requires a very different motive. It has to be done out of love. Love is what moved Mother Teresa to give up everything and go out into the streets of Calcutta to serve the poorest of the poor. Love is what inspired St. Francis Xavier to leave his country and serve in the missions until his death. Love is the reason why St. Therese of Lisieux enclosed herself in a Carmelite Convent to offer herself for the salvation of souls. Love is the reason behind why so many men and women have preferred to live without many modern comforts, why they’ve chosen to cross continents and seas, and dedicate their lives to the youth, to the sick, to the poor, to the elderly, to those who still do not know who Jesus Christ is. This kind of love overcomes the ties of blood, expands the heart so that a person can love more than just their own country, and is stronger than life or death. It requires sacrifice, yes. But as St. Josemaría Escrivá once said, “To be happy, what you need is not an easy life but a heart which is in love.”
Opposition from our family or friends
Sometimes, what stops us from giving ourselves to God is not only what we possess, but the people we love. This can happen in a couple of different ways. Your family or friends may be against you taking a step towards religious life or the priesthood. It’s true that they may have some insight that you don’t have, so you should respectfully listen to them. However, it may also be true that they don’t support you in your vocation because of their own personal lack of faith or fears. Even in the face of opposition, you need to be strong and faithful to what you know God is asking of you. You should explain it as best you can to them but then take the next step, trusting that God will help them to understand or at least accept it at some point in the future. If He’s given you the gift of a vocation, He’s also given them the gift to be parents or friends of someone with a vocation. Hold fast to the promise of Jesus: “Everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life” (Mt 19:29).
My own fears and defects
It’s also necessary to leave behind are our own fears and defects. We might be tempted to think that we’ll never be able to persevere in a vocation to religious life because of our own weaknesses. But how many saints were able to overcome personal difficulties with the grace of God? As St. Augustine rightly said, “There is no saint without a past, no sinner without a future.” He spoke from his own experience. He fathered an illegitimate son with his mistress and once famously prayed, “Grant me chastity, but not just yet!” Now, he’s a Doctor of the Church. St. Mary of Egypt was a prostitute since the age of twelve. Seventeen years later she went to the Holy Land looking for more customers but instead received the grace to change her life before a statue of the Virgin Mary. St. Camillus de Lellis was a gambler before converting and dedicating his life to the sick. St. Francis de Sales had anger issues. And the list could go on… They all became saints despite the fact that they began with a lot of defects.
It’s true that certain tendencies and things we’ve lived can weaken our soul. A true and stable personal conversion is necessary. But these things don’t have to be the biggest obstacle to living a chaste life fully dedicated to God. The Gospel and the lives of the Saints are proof enough that a past sinful life can be transformed into a life full of God and that “it’s in giving that we receive.” – St. Francis of Assisi