In the Gospel today, we see something which mirrors faith activity which takes place in our world today. The Lord makes Himself known in many different ways, gives grace and gift to us all, and yet there is only a small percentage of us responding to that gift and mystery.
I choose this term “gift and mystery” for a reason. If you’ll recall, that’s what St. John Paul II entitled his own vocational account, recognition that his life, every talent and grace he had received which led to his vocational response was both gift and mystery. There was part of what God had given that was apparent and known; there was a greater part that was unknown to him. For our late pope and now saint and for you and I. Even when he wrote his own autobiography; could John Paul II have had a total awareness of what God would do with the gifts He had given to him? Could he have known what was in store for him as he began his vocational discernment? He couldn’t have, nor can we – hence, mystery. But we can make the glory of God present here and now, God gives us all that power. We have to accept that He can and He will – and if we do we will be truly amazed at how He manifests Himself in this world through our humble response.
When I was considering the priesthood, I was a new and zealous Catholic, living my faith, going to daily Mass, enjoying my life, the sports I was playing, hanging out and enjoying my friends and many good and healthy relationships. My heart was being drawn towards the priesthood (I see that now) but I was also very caught up with my life and the easier thing to do was to dismiss or ignore the very quiet call assuming that this too was a sign. I said “maybe later” and “maybe when I retire”. I was a city bus driver before becoming a priest and having started young, I could retire when I was 52 – a great time to decide to become a priest. But that’s not how the Lord calls us. We are called to live our life with faith; to live it fully and completely, to live it joyfully. When we do that we can be assured that the Lord will move our heart to discover our calling, our meaning and purpose in life. We can be assured that He urges us on to this, because this is what every human being (whether they accept God or not) desires. It’s hard, virtually impossible to figure this out completely without God but with Him, He will lead us to it! We can be assured that while we pray for it, asking our God for it, that it’s the Lord desire “…who begins the good work in us, will bring it to fulfilment”. It’s His desire but He needs us to desire it too. Today’s Gospel reminds us that this “good work” is disrupted when we make excuses, when we find other things to do, when we don’t give back to God from the gifts he gives to us. It reminds us too, who are living our vocation never to take things for granted, never to become complacent, not to undervalue what we’ve been chosen to do. We are invited into a great life through our vocation – I see that in my own vocation to priesthood. Despite the challenges and difficulties and obstacles to faith in the world, I find different ways to evangelize through actions and through priesthood every single day. My friends, I offer today’s Gospel as words of encouragement for all of us. As hard as it might be, there is one less place in the world made better when we make an excuse not to live and give witness to Jesus Christ by our vocation. The world we live in really can’t afford or be without that. May God bless you.
It’s easy even in the midst of a genuine life of faith, one given in service to be compelled to start doing for others to serve our own needs, if even it’s the need to be needed. Our Gospel today is a reminder that all of us need to really reflect and reflect again each and every day to assess just what is motivating our actions. When men come to discuss their own calling with me, what makes a calling blessed, and the thread I listen for is the call to service. If a vocation is not founded and doesn’t develop a spirit or desire of service; of genuine service it might be something else, but it’s not God’s vocational calling for you. To love God so greatly that we desire to do His will is of course the essence of our calling, but if it’s authentic, God reveals Himself and compels us to serve. We know at a critical time; Jesus serves by washing the feet. In fact, Jesus’ whole life was about service. But amid the great joy of discovering and living out our vocation, in our own spiritual lives, we can sometimes find ourselves with the wrong motivations in our actions no matter how well we are progressing in the spiritual life. We all long for love, and sometimes we are motivated to do for others for the love and affection we will get in return. Unfortunately, that’s the temptation we must resist because it skews true service, and it isn’t the true living out of our vocation. Friends, this is not a Gospel that should leave us feeling dejected or without hope. If we reflect and try our best to always have the right motivation in mind, to serve the glory of God and love of our brothers and sisters, we can be assured that our lives will be better and more joy-filled and we will bask in the love of God, which is the greatest love we can be given. We will recognize that love if we give ourselves to Him. Especially as a diocesan priest, I think of the greater glory of reaching out to those whom I haven’t reached and it gives me the joyful mission and motivation for the day! I think of a hero of mine; St. Francis of Assisi who in prayer heard the Lord say “rebuild my church”. These words are recorded not as some kind of legacy for St. Francis – they are there for you and I. We are the ones! We are the ones who through our vocations are rebuilding the church today and into the future. May God bless you.
The prophets are rejected in Jerusalem. My friends, you don’t have to go to the Middle East to find that place either! Jerusalem is all around us. Just because we are Christian, we are not immune from rejecting the Word of God; in fact when we act like hypocrites, when we think that others are in any way inferior to us, when we act in anyway unchristian towards others – we too are the ones rejecting the prophet. Is that any of you? Well, it can certainly and often times be me. As I ponder the word of Christ in today’ s Gospel I know that there have been many times in my life that I have allowed my own doubt to guide me and my actions. There are many times I have allowed my own insecurities and issues motivate me not to be as kind to others and in fact to be downright uncharitable. I have rejected God, and yet He has never, ever rejected me. But there is hope! Jesus has given me (and you) a brand new day and has called upon me to seize that day to make today a better day, and tomorrow an even better day than that. On the third day, I remember that all was accomplished and the Son of God gave me that opportunity, mindful of yesterday and what the last moment was of my failings to be now and opportunity to be a greater, better Christian. My friends, let us consider in this moment that instead of worrying about who’s going to think or say or do what to us (Jesus isn’t concerned about Herod) let us concern ourselves with living and giving witness to the Gospel in the place we are at this very moment in time. May God bless you.
Hypocrites; once again Jesus decries hypocrites. Man, those hypocrites! I’m being a bit facetious here but it’s important for us to remember there’s a danger that any one of us can become a hypocrite and not even see it happening. To preach and profess one thing, but live in a completely different way. As a matter of fact, I find as a Catholic Christian and as a priest, I am constantly falling into the category of hypocrite. We can all become hypocrites when we fall or turn from the true essence of our faith and live and preach something else. And if you think you don’t struggle with this, I’d like to meet you, because even in the Gospels the Apostles and disciples are constantly falling into hypocrisy without even knowing it.
Knowing God and why God asks us to honour the Sabbath gives us all a sense of why we should go to Mass on Sundays, why we ought to tithe (give for our community), why it’s important and to reflect upon what we give to it and receive from our faith and the practice of our faith. If we look at those Jesus chastises in today’s Gospel with disdain, we better make sure that we’re living in as upright a manner as we can, and it’s important that we get the message that Jesus is challenging us all to know why we do what we do – for God. He is not suggesting that honouring the Sabbath, or our holy day is of little or less importance.
The “prime directive” of our faith, if you will is to love God and love one another. This motivates our every action as Christians. Unfortunately, the problem with this mere statement is that it is not a true reflection of many of our own faith-driven actions and/or our faith experience. I wish I could say it was, and I wish I could say that it was my own driving force always. But friends, we live in hope. For young men and women discerning a special calling, a vocation to priesthood, religious life most of the people I meet as Director of Vocations are at least sincere in trying to place this directive at the root of how we live our lives.
All too often, sin gets in the way. I’ve remarked on this before and I’ll say it again; it is always disappointing when people let sin get in the way of their calling. Either we give up hope or we give too much attention to our sins, but there are many who are very good people, people whom I see very capable of giving generously to God and to others but who believe that they are too sinful or too evil to try.
Then there are others who become so fixed in what they believe is the essence of faith – and it doesn’t speak of God’s love or a love we can bask in, absorb and then share or emanate; give outwardly in a divine way.
But we are reminded and we reflect. Today’s Gospel calls us all to “get our head back in the game”, to get ourselves once again on the right track. Our vocation; whether to be a husband, wife, priest, religious sister or brother is meant to further this commandment. We are called to share and give the love of God; not demand it, not require it – share and give.
My friends, hear the Lord call you intimately to Himself, to live and give witness by your vocation. It will be the way you bring more love for the true God into the world, and as a result great love to your sisters and brothers!
Probably one of the most disappointing things in our times (and all times for that matter) is that we don’t use one of God’s greatest gifts to us for its intended purpose. We were given the gift of our intelligence so that we could intimately know our Lord and God. And we use it for other things. We have for a long time and throughout human history used this gift especially not for its intended purpose. In today’s Gospel, Jesus cautions us on something if we stop and reflect most of us struggle with to some degree. We perceive things, seek to understand things, grow to know things but in the end, when we are given the Gospel, the Revealed Word of God so many of us reject or ignore it. The intelligence we use to perceive, know, understand other things we seem less inclined to exercise these gifts in God’s direction.
I see this too in vocation work. One of the greatest obstacles to discerning a vocation is a lack of trust. We see that God brings men and women to discern a religious vocation; some discern well and know it’s not for them (God leads that too) but for others they can’t see what’s right in front of them; that a vocation to priesthood or religious life might just be the way God is revealing to them the way they will lead many, many others closer to Jesus and the Church. I am edified by the men and women responding, there is no denying that – but to the others who might walk away I ask you to hear Jesus’ words today. You see the presence of God in the world around you, you hear Him calling you closer to Him. Listen to Him, trust Him and know that He is the one drawing you closer to Him to leading and living a joyful life through your own unique and particular vocation. May God bless you.
Today’s Gospel and the refrain of the psalm seem to be in conflict with one another – they seem to be. Living by the Gospel, living a life of faith is going to be difficult; it’s going to put you in opposition to the people you care about in your life. If this is the case, where is this great goodness our lives are filled with; that the psalm refrain refers to?
There’s a price to pay for living our faith; there’s a price to pay for not. We have to make the choice! We do pay a price when we live our faith, and the price we pay is that there will be people in our lives; those close to us and around us might reject us or reject what we seem to stand for to them. But whether we are rejected or feel dejected by those who care for us; our loved ones will grow to accept our faith if we truly live it and if they don’t we can be assured that there is a problem somewhere there for those loved ones, deeper than we can penetrate – but Jesus can! We have to trust Him. On the other hand, we are really the only ones who suffer by not living our faith. For many of us, we feel out of sync, disconnected, not really living for our meaning and the purpose God created us to live for –which we can only find with faith.
The great goodness we will find by living our faith far exceeds the suffering we undergo for it. That we are promised that we are assured. I go one step further and suggest that living our faith meaning seeking to find our true vocation; what and how God calls us to live that faith; maybe as a married man or woman, building the glory through family; each family a solid brick or block of the Holy Temple of God’s Church. Maybe it’s through spiritual generation we offer as a priest, religious sister or brother; a consecrated person for God – that is we seek to find. I can assure you that is a challenge too; part of the challenge Jesus offers us in the Gospel today, but not a challenge each of us should shy away from.
There can be a temptation for all of us to become so exasperated by our own inability to overcome our shortcomings, failings and sins that we feel like giving up. As a confessor, I know this is the case for many of the people who come to me. “It’s getting no better, Father. I’m still just as sinful today as I was yesterday”. There is no hope and a lot of despair in this comment, but I know this is a common sentiment – and a common attitude or disposition. I know this not only as a confessor but also as a penitent. There is a temptation that exists in many of us, myself included, to want to give up because we see little or no progress in our own spiritual lives. There can be a temptation for most of us to simply just give up trying. Today’s Gospel reminds us that we mustn’t do that; and we have to conform ourselves to a new way of thinking. We have to allow ourselves to trust in the Lord. If He’s asking us to be vigilant, to keep working at it – HE SEES THE PROGRESS even where we don’t.
As you know, my reflections in my present ministry as Vocation Director take on a vocational theme, and while this message is one we can all be reminded of; it’s especially one I hope those discerning a vocation to priesthood or religious life will be particularly mindful of and hear the words of Jesus today. I say this because the beauty of the calling to serve Jesus configured to Him as a priest or consecrated person often makes the discerner feel they have to be better to the average person. The Lord has given you the tremendous outpouring of grace to open your heart to priesthood or religious life; the heroic spiritual tools to live this life, if it’s for you – but you will struggle with weakness and sin! I turn to St. Peter, my own personal hero. If we look at the Gospels, especially the Gospel of St. Mark – Peter fails many, many times. I’m inspired by him because he never gives up. He perseveres, he confesses, he sheds some tears, he falls and then he gets up and keeps going, loving and serving our Lord day by day. The early days of Peter led him to the day when as the head of the Apostles he gave his life and was crucified in Rome. He was vigilant! Brothers & sisters, keep your head in the game, and keep on trying. The Lord truly appreciates your vigilance.