I remember my childhood when playmates would sometimes give a slight blow on my head, show me his open palm and ask, “Isog ka?” (Are you strong/brave?) to which children would usually reply “Isog!” (Yes, I’m brave.) And the moment he hears your answer, he will search for another kid, do the same to him, ask him if he’s isog to which he gets an affirmation and before you know what’s going to happen next, there are already two isog– you and the other one. Consequently, you need to prove what you had just affirmed, and even though I’m not isog all the time if not really, in such circumstances I don’t have other choice but to fight though sometimes reluctantly. It even puzzled me why they are always isog when they know that it’s me they’re going to fight. This simple experience made me realize that to claim a thing is to prove that thing.
And as if I’m not contented in fisticuffs, another time my friend asked me the same question, “Isog ka?” to which I again replied yes. And then he told me that if you’re really brave, lay your foot on the motorcycle muffler (tambutso) and before I knew it I saw a portion of my skin curled up and I in pain. The muffler was still blazingly hot. Now that I’ve grown up I realized it was stupidity but back then, I thought it was bravery. I only intend to prove what I claimed.
If you ask me if I’m isog now, you wouldn’t hear a yes from me. It’s not what I claimed anymore. As the song of Kenny Rogers says, “You don’t have to fight to be a man.” When I entered the seminary, what I claimed was that deep inside I feel that God is calling me. And this brothers is much harder to prove than to simply claim that you’re isog. You can’t settle it with a fight; instead you have to prove it by your way of life. And this again is more difficult because as what St. Francis said, “Human beings are more inclined to learn the truth than to practice it.” What’s burdensome about this is that a single fault from someone who claims to be called by God is already scandalous and discouraging in the eyes of the common people. Because of this, Fr. Michael Mueller in his book Prayer the Key to Salvation says, “An ecclesiastical student should make greater efforts to avoid sin and correct his faults, than to study learned authors and peruse many books. It is true, you must study to acquire the necessary science without which you would be unfit for the sacred ministry. But, my dear young friends, it is not learning, but purity of life that will qualify you for the priesthood.” Further, Fr. Mueller said that, “Anyone who receives Holy Orders without having the signs of a true vocation from God becomes guilty of mortal sin.”
But as I know very well, I’ve done many wrongs, I sinned at times, and no matter how I wanted to be so good, I still fell short of it a lot of times. In this respect, I’m like the Pharisee, a hypocrite, clean outside but filthy inside. But in another respect, I’m different from them. Pharisees do not have Jesus in their lives, in fact they rejected Him. But for us Christians, we have Jesus in our lives, yes we are sinners and we are imperfect but Christ nailed it all on the cross. It is true that a person cannot be both good and bad at the same time but a person can be good and sin and fail sometimes. We are sinners, but we are not lost, we have a way out and we have the key to eternal life, if we will only turn to Him. For as 1 John 1:9 says,
“But if we confess our sins to God, he can always be trusted to forgive us and take our sins away.”
And finally Romans 8:1 assured us,
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation, for those who are in Christ Jesus.”