by: Sr. Sharon Garzon, tc
Before I finally heed the call of the Lord, in a way, I can say that I thought I was already okay by the world’s standard. May you not take this as boasting because what I gave up is nothing compared to what the rich and the famous who followed our Lord gave up, including that of the princes and princesses who left everything just to serve Him… but, if one is asking for a secured job, car (though vintage), privileges and favors, a little investment, wonderful friends and loved ones, several suitors, pleasant entertainments and hobbies, a promising future, what more can I ask, I had them all. Not in exaggeration, but I remember friends would call me, “The envy of Murcia.” (Murcia is my hometown).
What was puzzling however was: After a busy day of work or even during the very busy day at work, or in the leisure time, I felt blissful and yet I also felt incomplete. Thinking that what was lacking was my prince charming, I started opening my door to the possibility of finding the man of my dreams. However, the Lord had His plans for me that He did not permit me to commit myself to anyone, because He knew when I commit myself to something or someone that will already be forever.
Looking back, when I was small, I remember putting half-slip on my head, pretending to be a Religious Sister while singing and dancing in front of the mirror. But as I was growing older, I told myself that I do not like to be a Religious Sister upon seeing and experiencing some not so good examples from some cranky Sisters, though I met and are friends with other nice and kind ones at school. I told myself, we could be holy outside too, so why enter? It is very funny, it is ironic, and I am here now, a contented happy Religious Sister.
There was a point in my life when I was in the middle of diligently doing my task, I asked the Lord, “Lord will I do this for the rest of my days, just to count and count and to balance this and that? I think there is more to just working and earning.” I think, there and then that the Lord had awakened again the seed of vocation that He planted in me since I was in my elementary years in our beautiful mountain where the Salesian Missionaries are there present to share the faith to the people where I and my treasured family actively participated. When I considered again the likelihood of “the Call”, I started knowing a little more some Congregations. Nevertheless, it only took a “bata” (the daily clothes worn by the Sisters) when He tried to get my attention to my present and much-loved Congregation. When I first saw the Capuchin Tertiary Sisters in Bacolod City, near our place of work, I found their “bata” nice because it seemed light and cool even if you exert effort, especially in our scorching hot country, Philippines.
I asked the Sisters about their Congregation and in response, they told me who they are, they invited me for a search-in and it is there that my inexplicable journey to Religious Life had begun.
When our Lord definitely called me some 15 years ago, I thought I was giving Him a great favor of giving up my family, friends, dreams, plans, what I had and what I was, because it was not at all easy. It was painful when I asked my dear ones’ blessings and for them I will be leaving them behind. In the same manner that it was heart crushing to think that, I will not be there when they need me. In addition, the thought that in times of jubilation, get together and celebrations, I know I will no longer be there, was hurting. Next, the letting go of my plans of having a nice family of my own, to let go of all of my dreams, to let go of the desire to fulfil my passions and to do the things that I really love doing – remunerated or not, and the list goes on and on…
When it dawned on me that the Lord commissioned me to give not just a hundred, thousand or even millions in the collection box or in charities if I had the chance, and when I knew that He asked me to give not just a part but the whole of myself, I was thinking it was me who was giving Him my best by giving Him my all when I said YES to Him, but, I realize I was wrong. “He cannot be outdone in His generosity”. He is always giving back to me all the favours, or to rephrase, the favours are all for me. I am always at the winning end.
His promises in Matthew 19:29, “And everyone who has left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children or land for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times as much, and also inherit eternal life”, have been unfolding right before my eyes.
As for the people I care the most, God knows how much I love them, but He lets me see that He loves them more and that He can take care of them much, much more than I can. Furthermore, He was teaching me how to be truly generous by expanding my capacity to love. He asked me to love not just a group of people I can call “my family or my own” but to consider making “all family my own” to love not just a few but to love all, “fratelli tutti” (brothers/sisters all), to be inclusive rather than exclusive…
He taught me that an authentic love goes beyond borders, goes beyond time and space so much so that what I should be offering my dear ones and everyone, should be far more than just what is banal and material, much more than mansions here on earth where moth and rust will just destroy and will just perish, instead, to offer the kind that lasts forever – eternal life.
I remember walking back home to our Community in Quezon City one afternoon when a mentally deranged man touched my arm, made the sign of the Cross and knelt in front of me, and I froze. I was stupefied not for fear of him, but because I realized the great responsibility that was laid on me: If a crazy man sees the image of God in me, using His consecrated garb, I should be more conscious that my way of living reminds people of the presence of our Lord (…so, help me God…).
The way I perceive and understand things now, my priorities that were far different from long ago, how I have grown, knowing my capacities and limitations, the experiences I enjoyed or cried over and seeing His hands in the events that gave me the faith and trust that He will always be there to see me through… all these and more are priceless and amazing and can never be traded for anything else. These I consider graces that only He can give. Even so I am still a “work in progress”.
I can conclude that I am a better Sharon than 15 years ago and that for sure I will never discover these without Him calling me to this kind of life. I can’t thank God enough – HE TOOK PITY ON ME by consecrating me to Him through Religious Life so that I can change my goals and transcend, knowing that without Him, I am nothing.
I was not living a sinful life back then, in fact, I was also trying my best to be good and follow His precepts as I understand it, but He opened my eyes to see that “to be good is not good enough” to enter His Kingdom. It is in knowing His will, and following it. If the Lord did not call me to Religious Life, I fear I could have been carried by many distorted ideologies to my perdition and that of others that I may have influenced.
Now and for always, I wish to put this line in a song, a reality in me: “I’ll shout it from the mountain top, I want the world to know, the Lord of Love has come to me, I want to pass it on…”