More than ever, I am convinced that those who follow their dreams will inevitably suffer.
I remember a colleague, whom I met while working with public schools, suffering a major setback in the last quarter of 2013.
After assessing his situation, I told him: “Remember this. If you have a dream you believe in and decide to follow, you will suffer for it.”
On the first half of this year, his project took off and things fell into place beyond his wildest expectations.
Perhaps struggles and suffering would continue, but these are mitigated by the assurance that God will help complete the work my colleague has begun.
Consider the journey of a mother who, after feeling broken and surrendering herself to God, is made whole again but continues to suffer for her loved ones, lending them her peace and trust in the Almighty.
But her suffering remains palpable. The difference lies in the trust she now has in God, the one in-charge who tells her, “I am the one who saves, not you.”
So she continues to carry her own cross, realizing there is no healing and coming to wholeness apart from Christ’s Cross.
The man having a midlife crisis also comes to this realization; his choice is to either stay in the periphery or enter the core of his relationship with Christ, again through the Cross.
This is the same insight I contemplated on, almost 15 years ago. I felt his struggle and pain as he came closer and closer to the truth.
At one point I heard him cry out to the Lord, “Save me! Help me!”
These stories say the same thing in different ways: We suffer if we have a dream to follow. We suffer if we love others and because of our trust in God. We suffer because we need to choose between entering the core of our relationship with Christ or staying in the periphery.
No other answer
Today’s Gospel confronts us with the question: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
The people replied: “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
Jesus asked: “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter replied: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16: 13-15)
This is what we enter and embrace when we answer the question, “Who do YOU say that I am?” There is no other answer but “You are the Christ” or “You are my Lord and savior.”
To know him is to acknowledge his saving love on the Cross. To know this is to love him and offer to be with him. To love him is to follow him all the way to the Cross.
God’s mission for me
More than nine years ago I left Ateneo, went on leave from the Jesuit Order (and eventually requested for dismissal a year later) because I had discerned, after almost two years, that God was asking me to embark on his mission for me—to work with public schools and to start a spiritual community centered on the Eucharist.
My spiritual director encouraged me, as “God clearly wants you to do this.”
I cried because I was leaving behind 40 years of my life as student, teacher and Jesuit working in and for Ateneo. It was painful, but I had to follow God’s mission for me.
Perhaps I suffer partly because of my stupidity and stubbornness, shortcomings and failures. But I also suffer because I stick to pursuing my dream.
Recently we had to make a major decision in connection with this mission. The choice brought much pain and suffering.
In my internal memo, I wrote: “There is one thing I need to say. I do not say this with ego or pride, but if anyone is to work with me on this mission of Magna (our public school work company), either he or she trusts me completely in the discernment and movement of the mission forward, or not work with me.
Sticking to the mission
“I have constantly prayed over this and continue to do so. I gave up a lot and suffered a lot for this mission… I have surrendered this (mission) and myself completely. I was actually preparing… to withdraw to a role of guidance and research and development.
“But recent events proved otherwise… I see all this as God’s move—he is always lovingly, providentially present in this work and mission. Until he proves me ‘wrong’ about my mission, I will stick to it and trust he is the one who will bring it to completion.”
I prayed after writing the memo. Then, hours later, I sent a text message to the man who was going through a midlife crisis: “Just want to share a grace of prayer today. You’ve experienced the grace of freedom FROM sin, human foibles, shortcomings and now God has led you to embrace a deeper freedom—freedom FOR his mission for you… Sobrang galing ni Lord! (The Lord is so good and great!) Thank you, Lord!”
So, “who do YOU say that I am?”
There is only one answer: to know, love and follow more the Christ, my Christ.
To paraphrase Paul: No longer I that lives in me and in the world I serve, but Christ who will bring to completion his mission to which he invited me.