Throughout the Archdiocese of Toronto, we have begun discernment groups for men called “Quo Vadis” and using one of the finest vocation resources I know of right now, a book aptly entitled “To Save a Thousand Souls”. I suggest that the title of the book is an apt one, because it invites the reader to want to open it, and in it find his way to a deeper sense of God’s calling for him in his life. Now, this book is for the man discerning priesthood, in a more focused way the diocesan priesthood as it’s written by a diocesan priest, a former Vocation Director – we are all in the business of saving souls; it’s part of the Christian mission! It is to suggest that the role of priest is to focus one’s life for this purpose, to be a minister of the sacraments to enable one to save souls and to make that one’s life’s work.
It is God’s greatest joy that a souls should be saved. We hear in the words of today’s Gospel, Jesus making this point; the shepherd saving the life of the lost one while not focusing his time and attention on the ones that have not left the herd. We know that He too speaks of His own mission; that those who have stayed close to God and who know the Father’s love while certainly deserving to be close to Jesus must allow Him the freedom to go out and gather others who do not yet know Him or who have lost their way. We all make sacrifices, even as we evangelize and minister to others.
I think of my short but very joyful time at St. Patrick’s in Markham. The parish community was a truly amazing one, vibrant, alive with amazing people doing so much of God’s work in the Markham area. Certainly what we might consider a “mega-parish” simply based on the size of the congregations at Mass. There was more than enough to do in the parish office for a young associate pastor. Since working with youth in the parish was a focus of my ministry there – I spent a lot of time in the schools. There were many who told me that this was a waste of time considering many didn’t come to church anyway. That might be true, but even if it is, all the more reason for me to be there to reach out, to bring Jesus to them!
I don’t know if my visiting the schools had a great impact or effect on the young people or teachers; I hope it did. I also hope they might choose to go to church and be close to God there because it was God and not because of me. I may never know. It’s also not for me to know. God knows. I trust Him, take seriously the words of the Gospel and while I still care for the people who are entrusted to me as a priest, I reach out to others to welcome them in. This, my friends, is the joy of the Gospel!