When I was about 10 years old, I wanted to become a religious sister.
As a child, I had personally experienced the love of God and wanted to bring him to all people. I felt strongly about evangelism.
Now, as a young adult, I am still discerning my path, but I have come to learn that whether I'm religious or a layperson, I am called to share the joy of the Gospel with others.
I was reminded of this when I attended the ONE Conference Feb. 10. The theme for this year was “Mercy and Beyond: Sharing our Joy.” I'd like to share three lessons I learned from the conference, concerning God's mercy and joy.
First, this past year of my life was definitely the hardest.
A few years ago, I had made the decision to change my major and was scheduled to graduate in 2017. What I did not plan for was for the exchange rate in my country to fall, or for my Nigerian bank and Flywire, an international payments processor, to take about 10 months to process a simple transfer. As a result, I had to place my studies on hold and watched all my plans fail.
In the midst of everything, after numerous tears and “why me?” moments, I encountered God's love. Despite the circumstances, I could count my blessings, and after submitting to God’s will, a miraculous avenue opened up. The issue that I had been worrying about for a year was solved in two days. My faith was renewed and I wanted to go and change the world!
God is love and shows love through his inexhaustible mercy. At the ONE Conference, Dr. Josephine Lombardi put it this way: “Mercy is God’s perfect, unconditional, forgiving, kind, compassionate, generous love whether one is worthy of it or not.” God extends this generous love to me, to you, to my friends, and even to those I might not get along with.
That implies when I hold a grudge or judge someone, I am withholding mercy that was freely given to me. Encountering God’s mercy brings joy and we are called to share that joy with others.
Notice how many times I've used “I” so far? It leads me to the second lesson: there is absolutely nothing that I can do without God's grace. In the words of ONE speaker Jake Khym, “Self-reliance isn't evangelization, it is practical atheism.” This message really hit home for me. It was a great reminder that in doing the Lord's work, we must not forget the Lord of the work.
Lastly, anxiety is futile. Abbot John Braganza gave a beautiful talk on prayer, explaining that, “Prayer is an extraordinary experience, when one is obedient to the present moment.” It is futile to burden the present with past wounds or be weighed down with anxieties about the future. As I learned when my plans to graduate in 2017 failed, prayer requires obedience in the present.
The ONE conference brought great joy to my heart through the talks, music, Mass, and beautiful conversations I had with fellow attendees. I was encouraged and inspired.
As Pope Benedict XVI said, “Dear friends, may no adversity paralyze you. Be afraid neither of the world, nor of the future, nor of your weakness. The Lord has allowed you to live in this moment of history so that by your faith, his name will continue to resound throughout the world.”
Fehintola Okunubi is a student and freelance writer based in Vancouver.