Jesus speaks of His impending death in today’s Gospel; He prepares them and Himself for what is inevitable. It’s only a matter of time, limited time before the Son of Man will suffer and die in Jerusalem. When I was in parish ministry, this was the Gospel which I usually selected for funeral liturgies. The imagery our Lord uses of the grain is a most powerful way to express life and death. We have to remember that if we didn’t have death, we wouldn’t get to meet the Lord face to face in the halls of heaven.
With an awareness of our limited time in this world, we often aspire to be better people, but it’s in what we take away from a reflection upon our own mortality that we begin to see emerge a sense that we are leaving a legacy. Jesus’ words to us today are to let His disciples and each of us know that they [we] are His legacy. We come together each week and celebrate being disciples of Jesus.
We come together with different backgrounds & different life experiences to the same Lord; followers of disciples through disciples through disciples who taught & evangelized in a lineage of disciples so long, so hard to trace, so complex now – but still a reality of our faith. The point is this, Jesus, this single grain died, and as He told us in today’s Gospel, by the death of that single grain – much fruit has been produced!
We might not all have the time to stop, reflect and ponder this in our otherwise busy lives, but it’s important for us to take the time to do this: this faith we share, this faith in God and the manner in which we live it out is not something that is merely family tradition: Jesus Christ came & remains with us in body & blood, soul & divinity through the sacraments but also through us, through our faith & our sharing of it. This is something that we all need to consider!
This is something that needs our attention, because we share faith with each other BUT we need to share our faith through the sacraments, and the only way our Lord has given us to do this is through the priesthood. As Director of Vocations, I know the role the Lord has given me is to help foster & promote, nurture & cherish all vocations, especially those to the priesthood here in the Archdiocese of Toronto. For my part, I encourage the people I meet no matter who you are to help in that.
I can’t beam into any parish, not yours or anyone else’s and expect that I will be the one to encourage men to consider the priesthood and women religious life. That’s our job together, your role in that is to be open and encourage one another for this task. The most important vocation work is done in families; families at home, families of faith; and the Sacrament of Marriage which many of you have already committed your lives to – is the sacrament which begets all other sacraments!
The Sacrament of Holy Orders comes from this family of faith, and our own families encouraging it!
Not always in the most conventional or straightforward way either. Priesthood is every bit as beautiful a vocation as to be a married man & husband, but it took me a lot of years; even many years into the seminary to come to realize that. All of our vocations will have challenges, struggles, hardships, difficulties but they will bring us unbelievable joy if we give everything to them. I love being a priest; I have good friends who love being husbands and wives, mothers and fathers. I know many women, young and older who love being religious sisters.
These vocations are not dying, it might be a life less often chosen than in the past, but the men & women who do – many of them are satisfied. Forbes magazine, which appeals to the rich & entrepreneurial segment of society several years ago, reported that clergy were among the happiest people in society. I would tell you that there are many joyful men & women who are living a religious vocation – and I am one of them.
As Director of Vocations, you will never hear me say that we need to have our seminaries full because that’s simply not true. The Lord’s calling to us is not to fill seminaries; it is to have loving, giving, faithful, devoted, holy priests and religious, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers. The Lord does not call all of us to these religious vocations; but what I would tell you is that He is calling many more than who respond. For a variety of reasons, men stop considering the priesthood in society today maybe because they don’t want to disappoint their family & friends, or because they don’t feel worthy of the calling. As a man with these obstacles who overcame them – I appeal to all of you to help each other take away these obstacles. And as for our unworthiness; we are all unworthy of what the Lord calls us to do, but He calls us anyway! Think of the Apostles – they knew they were unworthy but Jesus didn’t affirm that in them. He continued to call. Jesus doesn’t call the worthy; He worthies the called! In order to discover that we need to pray deeply and reflect often on our lives; and appeal to the Lord to lead us to the way of life that will lead us to the greatest joy.
If it’s priesthood or religious life; be not afraid to respond to that. Together, each of us is continuing to build the greatest bastion against the things we see going wrong in the world we live in – that is, the Church. As disciples of Jesus Christ, together we are strengthening the family in here, so we can meet the world out there. We do this through our vocation.
What will our life be about? What will be our legacy, the fruit of our harvest? Will it be our family & the strong faith we leave behind? Will it be as a priest, having faithfully provided the sacraments day by day? Will it be as a religious priest, sister or brother following the charism of our Lord & the saints? We must found & ground ourselves in prayer. Pray to the Lord of the harvest, that He will send more labourers into the harvest. May God bless you.