I guess it would stand to reason that as Director of Vocations, I would love vocation stories. It’s one of the joys of my ministry – I get to hear vocation stories all the time. I love to hear them, and I get tired to share my own. I sometimes think how many times can one man share how the Lord called him, first to baptism, but then shortly after to the Holy Priesthood. I tire, but then I read and pray over today’s Gospel and it urges me to keep sharing as the Sacred Writers are inspired by the Holy Spirit to offer us St. Matthew’s vocation story, a powerful story of a man called to conversion, called to amend his life, and to follow the Lord. St. Matthew did great things, though he accounts in his own Gospel today of how he was a great sinner that the Lord reached. Jesus rejected keeping up appearances and conventional attitudes to “mingle with the tax collectors and sinners”. These people are thought of as the lowest of the low, the worst of the worst.
I can relate to St. Matthew, I did not do anything to invite Jesus into my heart, but He encountered me through good people. He reached out to me, I did not seek Him at first. In His tremendous gift of love given to me, I came to know, then embrace and then to love Him. I needed His example of mercy, love and forgiveness first and I needed to embrace it before I could embrace what came next. More than thirty years of sin wiped away in an instant. The embrace of mercy and forgiveness given by God first led me to begin to forgive others and to allow myself to heal. And then the journey towards priesthood began.
I have come to discover God’s purpose and plan for me. I may be a priest, but I am still growing to love more deeply, forgive more radically and completely and be more merciful to others and I experience it myself regularly. I am re-committing myself to my vocation each and every day. I still ask myself “why me” from time to time in my role as Director of Vocations. I know my weaknesses and shortcomings, but I also know the Lord works wonders and I can see and recognize that in my own life and in the many people I am blessed to meet. I know His love, mercy, forgiveness and grace; so I see it at work in the people I meet – and this is why I love vocation stories, because they reveal the Lord’s powerful presence in the world, in the blueprint of each Christian’s Purpose-Driven Life, through their vocation.