Saturday, January 14, 2006

Vocation is about Who is calling (Sunday homily)

Last week, Father Ang and I
both talked about “vocations.”

Father Ang and I emphasized
the need for more men and women to answer the call
to the priesthood and religious life.

Last week, I stressed the need for each of us
to pray for, to work for,
to invite and encourage
men and women to answer the call.

In that first reading,
Samuel came to be in the temple
because his parents brought him there:
Samuel needed their help,
Eli’s help, and many others’.

So I repeat my challenge from last week:
What are you and I going to do to promote vocations
to the priesthood and religious life?

I invite everyone to pray a very simple prayer—
five words!: “Please send us more priests!”—
which I hope you will add to your grace over meals.
Now, someone asked me last week,
“what about vocations as a sister or brother?”

My answer is we need to do it all.
But I believe the most critical need is for more priests.
Yes, we need men and women to consecrate their lives
as sisters and brothers.
We need more deacons—we don’t have a deacon in Piqua.

Not all deacons become priests.
Whereas only single men can be ordained a priest,
A married man can be ordained a deacon.

A deacon shares in the
“holy ordering” of the Church,
preaching, teaching, baptizing,
celebrating marriage;
and reaching out to the parish in many other ways.

A deacon is a powerful gift to the Church,
and I pray the Spirit calls
many of you to that ministry.

But yes, I have focused on the priesthood
because without a priest, there is no Eucharist!
Without a priest, there is no parish!

And I believe if we, as a parish,
foster priestly vocations,
we will see a growth in all vocations.

Because “the call”—at the basic level—
isn’t for someone else.
The Lord calls every single one of us
to give ourselves totally to him—
in different ways.

Now: I’ve said a lot about
praying for and encouraging vocations.
But I won’t leave it there.
It’s not just about “someone else”;
for some here, it’s very personal.
The Lord may be calling you to be a priest.

I hope you’ve received the encouragement you need,
from family and friends, from this parish; from me!
But if not, know that the Lord often calls us,
and yet we feel very alone in answering the call.

In every age, people answer the Lord’s summons,
and they find it costly,
and they feel very alone:
St. Francis of Assisi’s family opposed him;
St. Thomas Aquinas’ family tried to tempt him!;
St. Ignatius of Loyola loved being a soldier;
St. Augustine had to give up his girlfriend;
St. Maximilian stepped forward to be killed!
to save another man’s life.

On one level, there is no explaining this call.
You answer it, before you know what it will cost,
because of WHO is calling.

People ask me about my decision to become a priest.
I have to say, that’s a hard thing to explain—
because it came from an encounter too deep for words,
that began long before
I decided to enter the seminary.

In a sense, it began with my baptism—
that’s when my parents first brought me to the Lord.

But a key moment, in my own life, came when I was 19;
now, as a young adult, I was wrestling with my faith.
It was no longer “my parents made me”;
it was me asking questions, trying to sort things out.

I was reading Scripture, talking to friends,
Praying and searching.

One day—a day I will never forget—
an ordinary day in all respects, except one:
It was the day I “heard” the Lord call me!

No, I didn’t hear a voice, as you hear me now.
But in my heart, I did hear, unmistakably.
Unmistakably.
It happened; and only afterwards
have I tried to express it into words.

What happened I can describe this way:
The Lord called me.
To do what?
It wasn’t about a “what”—
it was more fundamental than that.
Because when you ask, “to do what?”
It’s like you’re negotiating:
“OK, I’ll do that, but not that”—
but how do you negotiate with the Lord?
When you really know WHO he is—you just GO!
You just say “Yes!”
And that “Yes” is the foundation of everything else.

For me, my priesthood was imbedded in that “Yes”;
but I didn’t know that then.

So if you’re wondering,
“I feel something, but I don’t yet know what”—
the best advice I can give is, “Say ‘Yes’!
Say “Yes” to the Lord without counting the cost,
regardless of what others say;
keep your gaze fixed on Him who calls you—
and each “Yes” will lead you deeper
and more certainly to His Will!

In the Gospel, when those two followed Jesus,
He asked them, “What are you looking for?”,
and their answer is odd:
They didn’t ask, “Who are you?” or,
“What do you, Jesus, want us to be?”
No—they merely asked, “Where are you staying?”:
They wanted to be with Him.

That’s the essential encounter:
We want to be with Him.
Everything else springs from that.

When you know Who is calling,
It’s not hard to answer!
Because you want to be with Him!
Wherever he takes you; whatever he asks.

3 comments:

joe said...

Fr. Fox
thank you for exhorting us to answer the call. We in the pews probably need more than just 2 sermons. Blessing to you!

Gregaria said...

Thank you for sharing your "vocation" story, and for encouraging us.

God bless.

Anonymous said...

Fr Fox,
Wonderful homily, thank you. Today at our Catholic Schools weekly Mass we had a priest appreciation mass to kick off Catholic Schools week. After the final blessing one of our priests mentioned praying for vocations, and knowing him I know it was from his heart. We ask at mass many times to pray for vocations and that's all well and good an I will continue to do so. However, through prayer, I often think God wants us to also have a part in things. I mean, God became man so man could have a hand in his own salvation, yes?
My point, at leat at my local level is this, not only should we pray for vocations we, the layity and religious also need to have a hand in mentoring, teaching, exposing our young men to at least look at the idea of priesthood and our young women at the religious life. When I was a boy I looked up to our peiests and considered becoming one myself as did all the boys in my class, and it was a result of being around good holy priests. In todays "American Church" that seems to be less and less. We at our parish ask to pray for vocations and yet we do nothing to actually take it to the level of the potential young person. Some groups like CTA and SNAP have their ideas as to how to get there that are contrary to Church theology and current issues in the Church have widened the gap as it pertaines to contact with the young. Couple that with preceived shortages and over worked priests and we are left with mere hope.
Some busy priests simply say they cannot get over to the Catholic school to speak with the children as other parish family needs have them tied up. First, let me say I fully understand that but, in life we move priorities around as needed and the youth at our school are not even looking at or know how wonderful the religious life can be, why? Because there is no exposure. Would a Doctor who takes care of the sick neglect his family should they become ill? Would teacher who's own son had trouble reading not double the effort at home to help that child along? Or would they just pray and hope for the best?
God wants man to have a hand in his own salvation and we need to have a hand in His church to foster interest in vocations or at least openness to the call.
Thank you and, Blessings.
Eric