Grace and not good enough

Yesterday at the chaplaincy we celebrated the end of the Year of Consecrated Life - students and local religious came together for Mass, followed by a delicious lunch and some lively conversations. The normal Sunday readings lent themselves beautifully to the theme of call and response: the call of Isaiah in the first reading (Isaiah 6: 1-8) echoing the Gospel account of the call of Peter, James and John (Luke 5: 1-11). In each of these readings the one being called is overcome by the immensity of God and God's power and all too aware of their own limitations and unworthiness. Each one needs to hear and believe words of reassurance, enabling Isaiah to respond with Here I am, send me, and Peter and his companions to leave everything and follow Jesus.

Our guest preacher was a Dominican, who gave us a wonderfully inspiring homily in which he spoke of the deep joy and blessedness of being a religious and encouraged those present to seriously consider religious life, adding if you think you'd be in any way good at it... And at this point, as I told people later, I disagreed. I can understand what underpinned his words - after all, both the candidate and the congregation need to feel that s/he has the capacity to live, with inner peace, a vowed life in community, according to a specific spirit and charism - but it was the idea of needing to believe you'd be good at it with which I disagreed.

You see, even though I utterly, deeply believe that this - being RSCJ - is what God made me for, I have never felt that I am 'any good' at it. I am all too aware of my weaknesses and lack of fidelity, of what I skimp on, hold back or give very grudgingly. I know I am not alone in this self-assessment. The other day I was heartened to read the vocation story of someone I know in which he said he considers himself to be a "rubbish monk" - and I knew exactly what he meant!

So how does someone live, with joy and fervour, a life they feel rubbish at, or at least unequal to? The answer is - not alone. God sends support when we need it, how we need it. RSCJ make their vows trusting in the fidelity of God and the love of my sisters... and over the years I have experienced the intermingling of these, and especially the strength and magnitude of God's faithful love. And grace - grace in abundance.

St Madeleine Sophie once wrote that the Heart of Jesus will make up for all that is lacking in you, and this has become the humbling reality and strength which underpins my life. And that, really, is the source of my joy: the ever-deepening awareness of God's amazing grace, patience and faithful love, in abundance, transforming and overcoming all that is lacking in me.

Which is why I would say to anyone considering religious life: come, even if - especially if - you think you're not 'good enough', be open to growth and challenge, and discover the joy of God's grace working transformative wonders in you...