Homily - Cedara, 2 July 2004

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(Amos 8:4-6, 9-12; Matthew 9:9-13)

As we continue reflecting on Oblate formation in the formation houses of the anglophone sub-region, I can’t help thinking of the Immense Hope project that will be deepened during the General Chapter. And I ask myself the following two questions: What kind of Oblate do we need to form today so as to assure a good future for our congregation? And what kind of formators does the congregation require in the present day context of our different societies?

In the light of the gospel of today, I would like to share with you a short meditation on the spiritual meaning of our Christian and religious vocation in the church.

Taking as example, Matthew who follows Jesus without really understanding much about why the Lord is calling him, I think that the quality of oblate formation depends on three things:

1. First of all, a capacity to listen to the voice of the One who calls us through the events and experiences of our personal lives. This pre-supposes a certain interior silence, an ability to concentrate and to listen. Religious have a need to give time to prayer and the people we serve are always happy to see in us, men who are men of prayer.

2. Secondly, the quality of our formation depends on the capacity to respond generously to God’s call. This requires faith, love and a detachment or renunciation of oneself. This is so because a vocation is always the response of love to the love of God. That is why the people of today expect to see this witness of love among those who have embraced a consecrated life.

3. Thirdly, we need a real capacity to serve Jesus, the church, the congregation, the people of God. This supposes availability, openness to the poor, the spirit of the cross. Oblates must never forget their first vocation which consists in being at the service of the poor.

Thus, while seeking to find ways of improving the quality of oblate formation, we must not lose the meaning of our prophetic vocation, in the example of Amos. It would be a great pity if our specialised studies or our academic qualifications were to distance us from that first duty entrusted to us by St Eugene de Mazenod. It would be a pity also to put too much emphasis on the priestly vocation while forgetting that we are first of all Christians before being religious or priests.

In effect, as Christians, we are called to faithfulness; a fidelity to our baptismal vocation which consists in loving God and neighbour, living in unity in the church and committing ourselves to the mission of the church. Indeed a vocation is always a call to mission. And this mission is essentially to speak to people of Jesus Christ by the example of our Christian life. And that is why any lack of understanding or any significant disunity within a formation team can be destructive of the oblate life.

Therefore, if our formation is to prepare Oblates who are responsible, as Fr. Mubesala said, the first condition in order to arrive at that goal, is to help our candidates have a solid spiritual experience, a real experience of God. But, it is impossible to help our young people in this sense if we ourselves do not have a personal relationship with God.

In other words, all Oblates and especially those of us involved in the formation ministry, need always to pray for the grace to encounter the Lord in a personal and real way. It is only then that we are able to act like persons who are responsible for their own vocation and religious commitments in the world of today.

Otherwise we simply act under the negative influence of our society, losing all the good motivation of our vocation.

Let us pray, during this Eucharist, that the Lord may give us the courage to be faithful to our Christian and religious vocation.

(JB Musumbi)