In the summer of 2001, after serving as a lector at our church for one year, the liturgy group invited me to serve a two-year term as leader of the lector group, which is responsible for the Scripture reading arrangements during Chinese Mass and for the fifteen lectors. At that time, my family had just moved to the San Jose area for three years, and I didn’t know many people at SJCCC (San Jose Chinese Catholic Community), and was still somewhat regarded as a newcomer. In addition, I had only received Chinese education through 6th grade, and had served as a lector for only one year previously. I thought I had neither the qualification nor the ability to handle this task. I prayed to God sincerely and asked him to reveal his will to me, and to my surprise, the message from God was: he was the one who arranged this task for me.
During the one year that I had spent as a lector, I felt strongly that God had always remained very close to me. Whenever it was my turn to serve, I would find the Scripture for that day to be carefully selected by God just for me. Sometimes he would answer a question I’ve been pondering; sometimes his Word would pierce my heart like a sword, to reveal things or events in my heart that I’ve deeply buried, concealed, forgotten, or did not want to even know about; sometimes he would comfort and heal my wounded spirit; sometimes he would show me the path I should embark on…By simply making a little bit of effort, I received abundant spiritual nourishment from his Word.
I feel I have received much more from God than I have given. Because of God’s calling and my gratitude to him, even though I did not feel qualified to be the lector group leader (and I also had some difficulties arranging time to take on this new responsibility), I nonetheless felt very happy to do the good work God had prepared for me, and therefore joyfully accepted the assignment.
Although there were no major difficulties during the first year as the lector group leader, there were certainly many small challenges. In addition to several lectors dropping out due to other commitments, I also found it difficult to recruit enough lectors to support all of the Masses. In addition, a few people had difficulties adjusting to a new and inexperienced leader.
Procedural changes directed from the liturgy group also caused the lector group to receive some criticism. This helped me realize that there is absolutely no way to satisfy everyone no matter how and what we do, and that there will always be different opinions. This also made me feel especially thankful to God for the many faithful lectors in the group – they did not concern themselves with criticism, but focused on their assigned tasks and put in their best efforts, at the same time helping me accomplish the task that God had entrusted to me. I believe all these events occurred because God wanted me to learn from these experiences and become a more useful vessel. However, I still felt discouraged sometimes.
During the summer at the end of the first year term, the liturgy group leader, Margarita, asked me to train a few more lectors so they can be commissioned in August to begin their service in the second year. My immediate reaction was: who do I think I am to do this? I cannot train anybody! I am not qualified. I must wait till next summer and invite a more knowledgeable parish member to do the training. Although Margarita invited several parish members on my behalf, I never even considered holding a lector training class. I was thinking if we can just get some experienced lectors to join the group, I would not need to train them; but if someone who had never been trained wanted to join the group, he or she will have to wait until next summer.
God apparently thought differently. At a charismatic Mass on a Saturday evening, I met a parish member whom I had not seen for a while, and suddenly felt that she would be a very good lector candidate. Amazingly, only a few minutes later, my husband Tony leaned over and said the exact same words to me. With this confirmation, I went over to her as soon as the Mass ended and invited her to join the lector group. She accepted immediately.
She then told me that she had received several similar invitations in the past, but not once had she considered accepting. However, God had miraculously answered one of her prayers recently, and she had offered a Mass that morning to express her gratitude. After that Mass ended, Fr. Koo jokingly asked her whether she was still a member of our parish, for he had never seen her participating in any ministry work at our church. Because she was filled with deep gratitude to God, she came to the prayer group that same evening to attend the charismatic Mass, and testified God’s mighty deeds in her life after the Mass. When I went to invite her into the lector group after Mass, she remembered what Fr. Koo said to her that morning, and thought about the grace and mercy that our God had given her, so for the very first time, she gladly accepted the invitation without any hesitation. Alleluia! Praise the Lord!
After further conversation, I realized that she had never received formal lector training. Her only lector experience was when she was selected to perform the reading just one minute before Mass began, so she was not aware of any guidelines and procedures, nor did she ever have a chance to read and reflect on the Scriptures before serving. What should I do with her now? Should I just tell her to forget about my invitation, that it was my mistake? I quickly prayed to God and inquired for his will, and I immediately realized God’s ingenious and timely arrangement of this matter and her willingness to serve God, so I decided to gather up my courage and hold a training class because it was for God. I believed it would be worthwhile even if she was the only one in the class, but if those other parish members invited by Margarita still decided to join in, then it would be even better.
During Mass on the next day (Sunday), the chairman of our community, James, happened to sit in the row in front of me, so I asked him to help me announce the lector training class to the parish community after Mass, and to invite parish members to participate in serving our Lord during Mass. That evening, several names of parish members began to appear in my mind, and I decided to invite them with telephone calls. I was delighted to find that almost every one of them accepted my invitation promptly and cheerfully, and almost every one of them mentioned that they were also thinking about calling me to register for the class! Incredibly, during one of the phone calls, I did not even have a chance to explain the reason of my call, but only had the opportunity to announce my name, she already answered, “So-and-so has already told you.” I was very confused upon hearing that, and did not know what she was referring to at all. Later she explained to me that she had requested for another parish member whom I was more acquainted with to pass the word to me, that she was interested in joining the lector group and would like to register to the training class. Somehow, this person had forgotten about this matter completely even till this day. Thanks to God that although we could be so forgetful, God would never forget anything! He put the name of this parish member whom I was not very familiar with in my heart, and to me this shows that if we have the desire to serve God, he would certainly give us the opportunity.
At that moment, I suddenly understood God’s will for us: He wants all of us to be closer to him, not only as his children, but also as his servants to work for him in his vineyard. I also realized that each and every lector is chosen by God, just as how he had prepared the good work for each and every one of his sons and daughters, so we can live in these good works (Ephesians 2:10). It is our blessing that we can serve God, and the work we do for God becomes our fortune in heaven. It is not a coincidence when we have the opportunity to be God’s servant, and it is our gain when we are chosen to do his work; we definitely receive much more than what we contribute, for our God is much more generous than we are.
Through these revelations I also received affirmation from God, affirming that I am indeed his servant. This assurance gave me renewed faith, courage, and strength to prepare for the lector training and the job he has allotted for me. I truly believe that there are many parish members more qualified than me can do this work, but since I’m called by God to do this work, I’ve decided not to bury or give away the “gold coin” God has given me, and I am willing to fully utilize this “gold coin” to earn many more for God (Matthew 25:20; Luke 19:16). Although pride can cause one to steal God’s glory, low self-esteem almost caused me to lose the precious blessings from God.
About 4 years ago, God gave me his Word that touched my heart profoundly:
Do not be afraid, I am with you,
I have called you by your name.
Come follow me.
I love you, and you are mine.
Praise to God for he never changes. He is still with me today and lets me know that I am forever his servant. He continues to reveal his love to me through various different channels and approaches, he also encourages me when I am weak, teaches me to trust in him, to rely on him, to look to him in all situations and to not be afraid. What great comfort and encouragement he has given me!
Dear Father in heaven, I thank you and praise you! It is my honor to be your servant, and it touches me deeply when I receive your encouragement and assurance. I am a person with so little faith yet so many flaws, but you do not detest me nor abandon me, you continue to give me chance after chance, to guide me and teach me to be a better servant. Dear God! The Father of glory! Please grant me the spirit of wisdom and revelation so I may know you more deeply. Please enlighten the eyes of my heart so I may know what is the hope that belongs to your call, what are the riches of glory in your inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of your power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of your great might (Ephesians 1:17-19). I praise you and thank you for your mercy, grace, compassion, love, and blessings. I pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Wendar Chen Fu - 11/14/2002
Keyword: Word Became Flesh