Right now, thousands of students are preparing for the Leaving Certificate exams. They hope to do as well as possible, so they can be admitted for the subjects they want to study at college. The better the degree they receive, the easier it will be for them to pursue their chosen career. Of course, when it comes to job interviews later on, they’ll have to market their skills and qualifications, and sell themselves to the best of their abilities. They’ll also need to provide a large amount of documentation to future employers, everything from personal references to extracurricular interests to previous work experience.
Now, picture for a moment an interview room with a difference. Imagine God sitting at the table, questioning prospective candidates for the priesthood. What skills and qualifications is he looking for? Someone who is smart? Articulate? Funny? A born leader?
You’d expect that God would be looking for someone who stands out even more than a candidate for a big law firm or a multinational company. After all, in the Bible we are told that as high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are God’s ways above our ways (Isaiah 55:9).
But in fact, God confounds our expectations of what Someone who is so infinitely wise should actually be looking for. Because when it comes to the priesthood, God doesn’t favour intelligent and articulate young men from well-heeled backgrounds. Social connections are certainly a big advantage to graduates when they end up knocking on the doors of potential employers. However, who you know doesn’t count in God’s eyes, and neither does your IQ level. That’s because God’s thoughts are much higher than ours.
In fact, it’s not just that God doesn’t seek out those whom society exalts, it’s even more radical than that. God goes in the opposite direction altogether: instead of choosing the stand-out candidates, God prefers the nobodies, the ones who have little or nothing to boast about. Two thousand years ago, Saint Paul pointed this out clearly to the Christians of Corinth. When it came to their vocations and calling, Paul reminded them:
Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God. [1 Corinthians 1: 26-29]
So if you feel insignificant, unimportant, and unworthy, don’t lose heart. I’ve often felt that way myself. It used to discourage me. But reading Saint Paul, I now realize this is exactly what I need on my CV as a priest. And if you feel you’re too small to make an impact, try sharing a room with a mosquito for the night.