Men and women who discern a religious vocation often have one thing in common: they feel a sense of unworthiness that slows them down or stops them in their tracks of vocational discernment when the thought occurs to them that they might be called to priesthood or religious life. I remember I felt very much this way; aware of all that I had done in my life not to warrant the Lord calling me to the priesthood, as people were telling me they thought I might be. I was beginning (in my mind) to dismiss this, rationalizing that these people who thought this: “really don’t know who I am”. I went on a discernment retreat and the retreat master said right away, “Some of you are sitting here right now, thinking ‘I’m not worthy’ and to you I have good news, you’re not! Get over it, none of us are. And to the others who thought you were, you’re not either. And it concerns me right now you think you’re worthy!” I have always been drawn into today’s Gospel, where Peter feels so unworthy, He wants the Lord to forget about Him and move on. But Jesus does quite the opposite. He doesn’t condemn, He doesn’t say “darn right!” He tells Peter that He has great things in store for Him. And He does for each one of us. This is an amazing Gospel for us sinners! Jesus calls us despite ourselves, which tells me of His majesty and power that He can take what is weak and deficient in us and make it good. He can take our sinfulness and make it strength. Many (sinners) are called but only a few will answer.
As a Vocation Director, it is very hard when a man walks away from what seems to me to be an authentic calling because he struggles with sin, and he can’t reconcile that the Lord could be calling him to Holy Priesthood while still being a sinner. Now obviously, he needs to try to work on his own sinfulness – we all do, and his sins can’t be ongoing, public and scandalous, but if any of us waits for perfection – we’ll never truly follow the Lord. If any of us waits “until we’re better”, we’re not likely to follow the Lord. We must allow ourselves to become more and more aware that we are sinners, but loved sinners. The best remedy for holiness and a deeper sense of calling for us is through the Sacrament of Confession, and each man who meets with me is encouraged to make confession a regular practice in their lives. Most priests know that they are only as good at giving Christ’s mercy and love as confessors, as they are regular penitents themselves.
Let’s today take time to think about our own unworthiness, and remember now and always that the Lord is really the one who will worthy us (and He will), we don’t do it on our own. May God bless you.