Is your God a “Vending Machine God”?

Aaron James R. Veloso

            In a conversation with my spiritual director, he challenged me to discover how I really see God. Who is God for me? Is He Santa Claus who gives everything I want if I’m nice? Or is He like a vending machine where we rack up points (like finishing a novena, attending masses, etc.), expecting that He will grant our favors? This then begs the question, how do we talk to Him, given how we really see Him?

Whether five or fifty years old, sometimes, we are guilty of seeing God as a vending machine. We would say, “Lord, ibigay Niyo lang po ang hinihiling ko, magsisimba po ako ng siyam na araw, sunod-sunod (Lord, just give me what I ask and I’ll go to mass for 9 days straight). I don’t’ mean to discount the validity of novenas and other modes of popular piety, but sometimes, praying like this makes us develop tampos (sulky behavior) if our requests don’t get answered.

This is where we see the importance of discernment. Discernment is seen mostly, as a process that men and women entering the priesthood or religious life go through to decide. What many people don’t realize is that vocation does not necessarily mean entering the priesthood. Married life, government service, and parenthood, among others, are also vocation paths. Likewise, discernment is not just a preparation for entering the priesthood or the religious life; it is a process that helps us make sense of God’s presence in our daily lives and see where He is trying to lead us. After all, we pray “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Blessed Pedro Calungsod surely would have developed the same prayer routine (examen, as Jesuits would say). His was a vocation not to the priesthood, but a vocation to be a sacristan, a catechist, a martyr. He embodied the Jesuit doctrine of being ready to be sent where there is the greatest need. He listened to God’s call and with vigor, preached the faith in the Marianas even if it cost him his life.

That is the challenge I will leave you this week. I would like all the readers to reflect on our prayer relationship with God. In an honest to goodness way, let us reflect — do we really talk to God? Do we still make an effort to listen to what His designs are for us? How do we apply this to our daily life, towards ourselves and towards others?

We are all called to greatness by God, called to be great students, great employees, great workers, great children, great parents, great friends, and yes, great priests and religious. Are we hearing His call?

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!