In today’s Gospel, we hear of James & John asking for a privileged position (which enrages the other Apostles) and we hear Jesus tell them that even though they will have to carry His Cross in their own lives, He isn’t able to give them what they ask for. Now, they may be speaking of spiritual & heavenly things here, but what’s creeping into their own minds is a sense of entitlement, and today’s reflection is on that in our own lives.
Entitlement is deadly for us as Christians seeking to live out our vocation, but we’re just as susceptible to being entitled as these two Apostle-saints are. I meet many people discerning their vocations and there are many things which I look for to help me determine a true and authentic calling to priesthood or religious life. These are things like an altruistic desire to serve, love for, care for others, a desire to give what we can in humble ways, a humble sense of our God-given gifts and talents which a man or woman desires to put to use for God and His Church in some way. This is not an exhaustive list, but it gives a general sense of what I look for. Entitlement is a hard thing to extract from a person’s desire but getting to know someone, it’s not hard to see entitlement because little things highlight it in someone’s personality. But an act of entitlement does not end someone’s discernment. I mention this because I have talked with people who feel I should end discussions with someone as soon as any sign of entitlement presents itself. I draw back on today’s Gospel, James & John gave themselves generously for the Lord with their lives and we know that St. James won the crown of martyrdom and St. John gave his life so generously that he entered Paradise as well. I also know that I have had many moments in my own life where I have acted or thought in an entitled way. But I know the importance as a Vocation Director of speaking about it.
In my ministries, first as an Associate Pastor at St. Patrick’s in Markham and in my role as Director of Vocations now, I have been given comfortable accommodations, a nice office to work from, all the things I need to celebrate Holy Mass and to do what I do. As a seminarian I was cared for as well. I often reflect upon that in prayer because it keeps me humble and reminds me of what the good People of God give to their priests (and religious and others as well). People throughout the Archdiocese of Toronto and the church over, love, care for and take care of their priests and we are blessed that they do. They care for me, and I pray that I have the strength and wherewithal to care for the people I serve, right now the people who discern their vocations. I have been given much, and I am truly grateful for much. I am entitled to nothing, and I think it’s important not simply to say this but also to truly believe it. It’s important for me to tithe just as it is for others, to give for the good of the Church because I am no different than anyone else this way.
This is the message that I share with all those discerning and our seminarians as well. The life of the priest must be one of genuine loving sacrifice and there will be the Cross to bear, there will be rewards immeasurable, there are joys beyond all telling, and it is a life very much worth living – but we mustn’t seek for glory, the Glory is God’s to say at the end of our life “well done, good and faithful servant”. May God bless you this day.