Six weeks of quarantine…and still counting…

By Fr Ramon Borja, SDB

John 10: 1-10… “The Shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”
Good Shepherd Sunday and World Day of Prayer for Vocations


Six weeks of quarantine… and still counting…

Deprived for reasons we all understand, surely there are things that we used to do and enjoy then, during our ‘normal’ days before the rise of this pandemic, that we now so miss having, right? I wonder what are yours?

I have to admit. I miss going to Starbucks.

But of course… real talk… celebrating the Holy Mass in our churches, whether in any Kuching parish church or in any Bau kampung gereja, with our devout Catholic mass-goers physically there with me, vibrantly singing and responding, all ardently praying… that is on top of my list of the things I so miss.

Very probably, priest or no priest, most of us, if not all of us, Catholics have this on top of our lists too… celebrating the Holy Mass, receiving Jesus in Holy Communion, in an actual sacramental way, not just virtual and spiritual. Bravo!

But may I tell you what else do I very much enjoy then and so miss now on these lockdown days?

I do miss “hearing my name uttered by someone calling me for anything whatsoever”.

Like a parishioner greeting me after a Holy Mass saying, “Shalom, Fr Ramon.” or “Good evening, Fr Ramon. Thank you for the Mass.” Some even say, “Thank you, Fr Ramon. Thank you for the nice homily.” (“Puji Tuhan! Praise God!”, I tell myself after.) One time one even greeted me with, “Beautiful Mass, Fr Ramon. Very long homily though.” (“Guilty as charged!”, I tell myself that time.)

This I so miss….

But don’t get me wrong. It is not really the appreciation that I miss. For me, that comes only as a bonus sometimes. What I really miss are these two things – “being called by my name”… and “having done something for someone”.

Don’t you also feel so nice when somebody calls you? And calls you by name? Don’t you feel extra nice when somebody benefits from something you have done?

I miss hearing Julian (one of our youth ministers) greeting me always, with his Julianic smile, “Good morning tatay Ramon! Any program for today?”

I miss Kak Bernadine (our APC Secretary) greeting me, with her signature graciousness, “Good afternoon, Fr Ramon. How’s the report going?” And I reply with a ‘pa-cute’ smile… but then again still fail to submit my Youth Commission report on time. Guilty as charged… again.

I miss those moments when a Catholic (sometimes young, sometimes not so) would greet me with, “Selamat petang, Fr Ramon. Do you have time for confession?” I so miss that.

I miss Fr John Chong and Fr Vincent (even though through text and not in person) greeting me with “Pagi Ramon. Can you preside the Mass in my parish this Wednesday?” Every time I receive a text from any of them, I always instantly smile.

I miss our Archbishop greeting me (whenever and wherever he sees me), “How are you, Ramon? How is Andre?” So kind of him, right? Especially when I hear him say what he usually tells me next, “Have you taken lunch? Come, let’s eat together.” Ooh, how can I not miss that? And also when he would ask me to do something. I feel valued even by our dear Archbishop.

Back in those ‘normal days’, there were many many times when others would greet me, call me by name, ask me for something.

During these stay-at-home days, all I get sometimes is Fr Andre calling me saying, “Fr Ramon, lunch is ready.” Sounds so nice too, yah? Well, for now, in this period of isolation that is a good enough consolation.

Remember those moments when somebody called you? By your name? Asked you for a favor? For something? For something worth it? Feels so good, right? You just feel special. You feel so known… and so valued.

During these ‘lockdown’ days, do you still have lots of such? Or like me, you feel the longing for such? Don’t you miss such moments too? When someone is there calling for you? By name? For something of worth?

I guess that’s why I also miss going to Starbucks… because there, they also call me by name, “Hot cappuccino for Ramon!”…but of course, only after I have paid something of worth.

Seriously… I so miss these…
Don’t you miss these too?

On these quarantine days, please look into your heart of hearts….
Don’t you long for someone to call you by name… and summon you for something of worth?

Then… on these MCO days, as you have more time to really look into your heart of hearts… you will eventually see that there is that Someone calling… that there is that Someone’s call.

I invite us to spend more silent moments these days….
Then and only then will we see that there in our heart of hearts, there is God’s call.
This, please, let us never miss.

We call that call VOCATION – that sacred, sanctifying and saving reality of God calling each and all of us… by name… for a particular purpose… which is of value to us, to humanity.

Whether for priesthood… or for religious life… or for married life… or for single blessedness… different vocations, all of equal importance… all for the glory of God and the good of God’s people… all coming from the one Lord who calls and who guides and graces the ones He calls… each and all of us… by name… God lovingly calls… for a singular mission… which will surely give more significance to our lives and the lives of others… if only we would respond generously, courageously, faithfully and lovingly too. That is “vocation”.

In celebration of Good Shepherd Sunday and inspired by John’s Gospel that speaks of “the shepherd who calls his own sheep by name and leads them out”, let us listen more clearly to our Good Shepherd who calls us so dearly to follow him more nearly. May we be not just his faithful sheep but be like him too in making others feel so known, feel so valued, feel so loved.

Call your wife by name (with matching ‘sweetheart’ before it) and tell her, “Can you cook later your signature fish fillet de el nino (ikan dilis or tuyo for short)? You know I so love that.”

Call your son by name and tell him, “I am so proud of you son. You were just a student then. Sometimes failing in your studies. But here you are now, a medical practitioner, a frontliner, our hero. Take care always. Jaga diri!”

Call that someone, call those someones… by name… the people in your life… and tell them how blessed the world is… how blessed you are… having them in your life.

In celebration of the World Day for Vocations, we are invited to spend more time in prayer… that kind of prayer which leads to deeper appreciation and eventually to dearer action. May more and more of us, God’s children, realise that our loving Father is calling each and all of us by name… that he is not just requesting us but is actually summoning us for something really of worth… for ourselves and for others.

On these lockdown days, when we have been deprived of so many things in day to day living, things we usually had and enjoyed, we are given that opportune moment to really ask ourselves these questions…

What is it that you really want to have?
What is it that you really want to happen in your one and only one life?
What is it that you would really want to do in this world while you are still on it?
What is that kind of life that you really would not want to miss… not for anything in this world?

Tough questions, right? But you deserve answers to these. That is how important you are. That is how precious your life is.

And you know what? The good news is… you are not alone in figuring out the answers to these. God is with you on this.

On these lockdown days, do listen to God more. He is lovingly calling you. Is it for priesthood, or for religious life, or for married life, or for single blessedness? God who loves you wants what is best for you. And surely He will help you see it through… for yours’ and for others’ salvation too. May this your prayer be, “Let me know Your will, Lord. In that calling You have for me, guide me and bless me so that to others I, Your blessing, be.”

And for those of us who have already discerned well and have given our definitive response to God’s call, either as priests or religious or family persons or single adults, let us surrender ourselves to God more. May we day by day say, “Here I am, Lord. In this vocation You have blessed me with, may I to others, Your blessing, be.”

Six weeks of quarantine… and still counting…

To be called by name, to be summoned for something of worth, I am so missing…
But God has given me this gift of VOCATION, such a sublime blessing.
He calls me by name, summons me for a valuable something.
To this, may I respond with no less than utmost love and giving.

Now I realise that that which I so ardently miss,
God alone can and do grant me.
And there could be no greater joy than this…
To treasure and trod the path of vocation God has given me.


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