Finding our way to freedom

By Father Victorin Oussoï SVD

In the Book of Samuel, God calls the prophet, and in the Gospel of John, John the Baptist sends two of his disciples to Jesus. But in our daily lives, it is not always easy to find our calling. However, if we listen closely, we will find the way. God works implicitly through our feelings, natural abilities, friends, parents, educators and church affiliations.

They help us decide how to make a living that makes our lives meaningful. They guide some people in choosing their life partner. Priests, brothers and sisters make a meaningful life through a vocation, which we also refer to as a “calling.” It is the invitation to follow Jesus as a religious woman, a religious man or priest.

Christians who choose this type of life choose celibacy, which helps them not only make meaningful choices but also prepares them to break away from loved ones in order to be a part of the human community in a special way.
They keep themselves free in order to devote themselves entirely to building universal human relationships, and as such, they are a living sign of the kingdom of God. That is what my confreres and I experience in community. We are five confreres from five countries, living together in a celibate life.

We have made this choice freely by responding to the voice of God. This has guided us to four parishes in Plauen, Strehlen, Löbtau, and Cotta, Germany. Our vows help us let go of everything and be ready to go wherever God is waiting for us. And this choice is not made once. It must be done every day.

So, what helps me to let go of everything today to hear God’s voice? Indeed, dear sisters and brothers! To respond to God’s call, one must leave a place and arrive where God is.

It is about leaving home, comfort, and family to go where God is waiting for us. In fact, I am convinced that there is no arrival without departure. To this end, John the Baptist invites us to see the Lamb of God. And we meet this Lamb of God in the Eucharist.

Through the Eucharist, Christ will join us and dwell in us in the form of bread and wine. When we connect with him in bread and wine, he gives us strength for life and faith. It is the celebration of our deliverance from sin and death. And that is God’s plan: that we are all free.

When Jesus calls us, he wants to free us from what keeps us captive. Many things in this world can hold us captive: self-pride, comfort zones, desires and the material world. And just as it took Samuel time to understand God’s call, it sometimes takes a long time for us to answer God.

Sometimes, we need time to free ourselves from our material world. Sometimes, we need time to leave our comfort zones. Sometimes, we need time to let go of our self-pride. We must be patient because it takes time.
It is a journey that we cannot travel alone. We need people like the prophet Eli in our lives who always point us in the right direction. We need time for the best things in life to materialize.

Love grows in marriage, friendship, and family over many years. There are significant moments, but often it cannot be rushed. Come! See! Stay! These are three words that we need today. And this invitation is not only for the disciples Andrew and Peter but also for you and me.

It is for all who dare to be a follower of Jesus in our world today. And I especially want to invite our young sisters and brothers to be open to God’s call and challenge. And you, dear parents, I encourage you to work together generously when any of your children feel God’s invitation to live meaningful lives of devotion in the priesthood or religious life.
Let’s all be disciples in our little ways.

New year wishes

By Father Victorin Kalassi Oussoï SVD

Earlier this month, we wished everyone a Happy New Year 2021. But, if we want this year to remain new and happy, let this year begin with: God’s blessings through Jesus Christ who is God among us, the breath of God’s Spirit in our lives and doings, and more importantly a plea for the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary through whom we regain our divinity and become children of God.

St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians reads: “God sent forth his Son, born of woman that we might receive adoption as God’s children.” This passage reveals our vocation as children of God. This is a restatement of the Christmas theme—namely, the Son of God becomes human so that all human beings might become daughters and sons of God. Moreover, it reveals Mary’s unique role in the story of salvation.

Mary is not only the Mother of God’s Son, Jesus, but also the mother of us all. And so, she brings bountiful blessings for all her children. Invoke her blessings for this new year 2021 upon all of us!

We call ourselves children of God. We associate being a child with trust, love, faith, hope, and the future. Let us go inside today and think about the extent to which we have lived as children of God in the past.

Sure, we have welcomed Jesus and decided to go with him and become like him. We can be happy about some of the things we have succeeded in doing. But there is certainly also a need for improvement—especially when it comes to faith, trust, love, and hope. We have the strength to do so because they are given to us!

What suggestions does the “old” year mean for the new? For the past year, I realized one thing most important in my life: the thing that sustained the mother of Jesus and sustained God from his incarnation to his resurrection. That thing is the love in our hearts.

If our hearts are right, the whole body will be all right. If our hearts are wrong, the whole body will be wrong. And by the body, I mean both the mystical and physical. The growth of trust, love, faith, hope, and the future depend on the health of our hearts. And indeed, if hearts are wrong, then marriages will suffer because love will not be there.

And if there is no love, then trust will disappear. If there is no trust and love, faith cannot survive. If faith dies, hope and future cease to exist. If all these things disappear, then, as humans our existence comes to an end. Isn’t that true in all of life?

Dear sisters and brothers, love restores us to peace while we practice it. To follow God’s will, we need to let hatred, unforgiveness, misunderstanding and disappointment go so that we can start over. Whatever happens to us, may we open our whole hearts to love. Let us always have room to love despite wrongdoings.

To be a Christian means to remain in love though wounded, remain in love though rejected and mistreated. To be God’s child is to love beyond our human expectations. Through this selfless love, we can cooperate like Mary, give birth to God in ourselves and in the world in which we live.

God gives hope in a world of uncertainty

“Adoration of the Shepherds” by Gerard van Honthorst (1592-1656)

By Father Victorin Kalassi Oussoï SVD

How often do we want to be sure before we do something, especially those of us who don’t like adventure or who are perfectionists? Although I love adventure, I often looked for security before doing anything.

When I was a student in Benin, a friend asked me to invest in reselling old books with him. I was not sure of the return on this investment. So, what was stopping me from joining him? I did not want to take the risk because I was unsure.

I was afraid of losing the little money I had. I was not ready to enter a world of uncertainty. I was not ready to let the insecurities of life weaken me.

As I reflect on the recent Christmas Gospel, which focuses on the deep meaning of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ in the world, I began to understand that God’s hands are more active in the world of uncertainty.

Indeed, God’s world is the world of uncertainty in which people learn to trust God who is responsible. It’s about daring to believe in God, which requires total dependence on God.

Mary and Joseph accepted the dare and believed in God. We, too, are totally dependent on God’s guidance. When we fully trust in God, we stop trying to control the outcomes of our lives.

We do not know the result of this trip. So, we walk in a world of uncertainty. Indeed, Mary and Joseph responded with faith and accepted the situation as God’s plan for them and her Son’s coming into the world. They did not understand, but they accepted and believed that this frail, weak child is God who comes into the world through them.

And I now hope that through this new year, we have learned to lean on God—that we understand that the mighty power of God is more active in the world of uncertainty. If we always want to be safe and responsible for everything, then God cannot work miracles in our lives.

God shows himself to those who are weak and need His help. Also, the coming of Jesus from the host of angels is announced to the shepherds.

The shepherds were viewed as one of the most outcast groups in society. If they thought they are not worthy of God’s grace, they must have been shocked when the angels announce that God was born in their city. We will always be afraid of meeting God if we keep thinking that we must be worthy to meet Him.

The angel had to urge the shepherds to let go of their horror; only then did the miracle of the night enter their souls. They were escorted to Bethlehem. They believed and set out to find the newborn king, and their faith was rewarded.

The shepherds were outcasts, the poor and despised, the great secret was revealed to them, and they became the first to know the Savior of mankind. Only those who know the small can be exposed to the wonder of greater realities.

We do not have to do anything to deserve God; we just have to believe and accept Him to enter His world. No matter who we are or what condition we are in, Emmanuel, God who belittles himself as a baby, is in our midst. He brings us peace and hope!