In today’s Gospel, Jesus reminds us that we can’t give up on each other. Jesus is criticized for eating with the “wretches” which we know become some of the most ardent Disciples of Christ. This is a most timely Gospel for us all to hear, especially as the Year of Mercy is coming to an end and we need to allow a merciful spirit to be etched in our minds as we continue to live our faith and hopefully never to forget God’s mercy as it’s been extended to us. Recently, at the NCDVD (National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors) in Boston, Cardinal Lacroix gave a timely speech about some of his own pastoral experiences. He spoke of a couple who came to him asking for Holy Baptism for their first…their second…their third child and so on, each time never finding their own way into the pews but wanting baptism for their children. Eventually, as the Cardinal tells it, the family (large by this time) had a powerful conversion experience and were a faith-filled and ardent Catholic Christian family. He offered this from his own experience as a priest, that we might be gentle, merciful and not assuming the worst in the people we serve. I thought about his story today as I prayed with our Gospel; it is a reminder to me not to give up on anyone the Lord presents to me. Obviously we need to have the strength and courage to present God’s truth with love and with compassion and to call our brothers and sisters to a “higher place”, perhaps at times to gently challenge them but never with an authoritative edge but rather with care and concern for their souls and to help them to know God in a deeper and more personal way. We must journey with them. This is something that I try to include in my personal reflections with the men in my discernment programs and in the seminary; also the men and women I speak to who are discerning their vocation. If the Lord is calling us as Disciples to religious vocations; that is, to serve the Holy Church in a special way; He is most definitely calling us to consider today’s Gospel with a deep love, charity, assuming the very best of people when we encounter them. We can’t give up on each other – Jesus didn’t. As a convert in my thirties, I can assure you of that. I am glad that the Lord and His Disciples who brought me His love didn’t give up on me.