by Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya

The beginning of an academic year is always fraught with anxiety and hope. Many of us are anxious for the same reasons as we are hopeful. New beginnings come with different expectations depending on where we are with our lives.

This new academic year has started with the announcement by President Jacob Zuma that there will be free higher education. Naturally, many of those who thought themselves excluded by financial constraints suddenly have hope that they will become part of a class able to break the intergenerational poverty and marginalization that comes with being raised in a poor and often under-educated family.

Under these circumstances, it is possible that many students would be going to tertiary institutions without fully appreciating the importance of choosing correctly just because “it is free”.

This attitude would be going against our faith tradition and understanding that we are called to serve and glorify God with our lives. This includes what we study and the professions we spend our lives working in.

That is why students should think very carefully about what and why they study.

In the last two weeks, the scriptures have reminded us of the importance of responding to God’s call in our lives. Last Sunday we heard how Samuel had to be attentive to respond to what would turn out to be a glorious “career” as a Prophet and literally a kingmaker.

This weekend we hear how Jonah tried in vain to avoid his true calling and learnt the hard way: God’s will is always best. When Jonah realises this, and is obedient to the call, an entire city is saved from destruction.

We also learn how the first of Jesus’ disciples freely respond to his call “after John had been arrested.” This tells us that our calling can at times come at a precarious moment in time.

The reading from the book of Jonah also gives hope to young people: they too are called to do great things with their lives. The anointing of a young shepherd, David, with no particular claim to fame to his name to be the next king of Israel, must remind young people that they are never too young or too unaccomplished to make a positive difference in the life of our nation and for generations to come.

So, as the new academic year starts, we pray that those who are called to be the ‘Eli’ in the lives of the ‘Samuels’ – that is to say that those who are called to mentor and teach – will do so with the patience and discernment of the Biblical Eli. We pray that they will guide young people to become the best versions of what God has called them to be.

To young people, anxious about whether they are making the right choices: Christ’s words, “come and see”, should encourage them to explore the life that we can have when we are plugged into Christ in our lives. This is true for all of us, regardless of whether we are new students or continuing our life’s journey wherever we may be.