In his first year of studies in Rome, Father Rhobby Mojolou shares his thoughts on the challenges encountered so far.
Sitting and trying to verbalise my thoughts has been a challenge because it has been a while since I have written something.
So far in my studies of Greek and Hebrew languages, it has always been to memorise many new words, analyse the intricacies of grammatical syntax and challenges in translating sentences from Greek or Hebrew into English and vice versa.
For the first year, these have and will continue to occupy most, if not all, of my time….to eat, walk, see, read, think and sleep in Greek and Hebrew, except to speak them. Every day there will be lessons except for Thursdays and Sundays. There are times that I even forget that there are weekends at all! My classes are only in the mornings; less than two hours for both Greek and Hebrew every day. This may sound easy, as one might think, but personal labour is beyond description! I find myself always working against time. After class, time is spent only on doing homework, revisions and memorisation for hours because I am slow in learning…so little time and so much to do.
But if I am that busy, you might ask why would I have time to share all this? As you read this, you might think that I am complaining in public? Well, you are not far from right. In the beginning of my journey here, I was struggling with these languages. Many a time I had my doubts. Many a time I complained to God. Why me? Why do I have to put up with all of these?
The learning of these languages is dry in a sense as I am not learning any theology or something of the sort, but only the language alone: the conjugations or declension of a word in its complexities according to gender, number, aspects, tense, meaning and the way of writing. Many a time I cried in despair and wanted to give up. Many a time I just wanted to abandon prayer life, even Mass, and only live secludedly and concentrating on my studies without needing to be involved in community life.
I think that God would understand and I do believe that He understands. Reflecting upon this, I am sure many would be able to relate. Many of us choose to work rather than to go to Mass or even to spend a short moment in prayer. How would there be a plate of meal be on the table for the whole family? Would it drop down from the sky? Why be active in ministries because others would not care if we could pay our monthly bills or not? Or would I be able to pass my exam only by praying alone?
As I began my Greek studies, the first verb that we learnt was “åéìé” or in English “I am”. Linguistically learning this word in itself has no real significance. In English it is just a verb such as “he is”, “or “she is”, etc; depending on the conjugation. This first verb has the easiest conjugation and it forms many of the basics of all the other conjugations. Other than that, it means existence of something or someone. As we finished learning all the different conjugations of this verb, our lecturer congratulated us on having survived so far or having existed through the study.
Somehow his comment impressed something profound on me which I now recall as I pen down my thoughts today after this month’s recollection day. Can we put God aside and live a life according to the way we think we ought to? The fact of the matter is that many a time we tend to think that once we have received ordination or made our final profession, or completed our Sacrament of Initiation, or took vows in Holy Matrimony, it ends there. But existence doesn’t end there, does it?
We might have achieved our fulfillment at the completion of something and think that life will drive by itself from there. But where would it bring us? Who is guiding the hands of life?
We are at the end of the liturgical calendar. This may be a cliché but time really flies. Time and tide wait for no man. In a matter of few weeks, we are going to celebrate Christmas, the birth of our Lord Jesus, God-is-with-us. When Jesus was born, a chain of change began to happen. The life of Mary and Joseph was full of joy because they had a child. Even the heavens, angels and shepherds rejoiced at the birth of Jesus.
Year in and year out we celebrate this joyous occasion but has anything changed in ourselves? Do we really believe that God-is-with-us? Maybe the problem is that we only think of Christmas as an event that happened two thousand years ago; a distant past. Perhaps we have taken our faith for granted. Even the very act of Jesus being born is externalised. Yes, the Lord was born two thousand years ago but as he ascended into heaven, didn’t he promise that he will come again in glory?
So can we not anticipate and celebrate his coming again by celebrating Christmas in a way that we ourselves are giving birth to Christ again through our own life? Can we not internalise Christmas by giving birth to Christ ourselves?
For a woman in labour, parents in expectation or those who have children, you would understand how nerve-wracking and how difficult it is to await the birth of a child. The pains of childbirth after nine months of pregnancy are indescribable. But then the joy of a child brought forth into the world, into the family, is worth all the pain.
A child brings change to the mother, father, relatives and friends. Jesus did just that when He came into the world and lived among man. It is those moments of labour and delivery that make all worthwhile. These weeks of Advent, let us rekindle or make present once more the birth of Christ through our own selves. Let us make a good preparation to once more “deliver” Christ in our lives.
These weeks of Advent, let us go into “maternity leave” by taking good care of ourselves as we await to give birth to Jesus. Let us “eat healthy food” by celebrating the Sacraments, namely Eucharist and Reconciliation, regularly. Let us “take good rest” by spending more time in prayer and meditation. Let us “take good exercise” by looking at our relationship with the people around us – our family and friends. Visit each other, talk and share the joys of being in “labour” – anticipating in giving birth to Jesus.
Remember that Mary shared her joy with Elizabeth even before the child was born. Change takes place even before the birth. It is every step of the journey that counts and will make the end worthwhile. Just ask any mother, they will tell you. After giving birth, a whole new chapter begins. (By God’s grace, we will discuss this some other time!)
By the time you read this, Advent Season may have begun, but have you done anything yet? It is better late than never. It is better to start somewhere than nowhere at all. It will be difficult and it will not happen spontaneously but with God, nothing is impossible.
It has been difficult to juggle between my studies and my prayer, but without prayer, studies would be dry; life without God would be empty; existence would be meaningless. Faith without work is empty but work without faith is meaningless. As I continue to close my eyes in prayer and pour out my doubts and struggles to God, I open my eyes and realise that the difficulty is still there. I still have to force and drag myself to study. But I still manage to move on, one step a time; one language at a time; to translate one more sentence, one word at a time. This is all because I am not walking alone, I am still breathing, I still exist because God-is-with-us. Continue to pray for me as I do for you.