St. Anne Parish, Chicopee
St Peter’s Basilica in Rome is probably the most famous church in the world. Inside it’s 614 feet long. The ceiling of the main nave is 145 feet high, and the inside of the dome itself soars to 385 feet, built over the tomb of St Peter – a sinner: He often said the wrong thing. He argued about who would be the greatest in the Kingdom. He tried to save Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, and all he accomplished was cutting off some guy’s ear. But worst of all, he denied Jesus three times. St. Peter was an ordinary man, chosen by Jesus to do extraordinary things… On his way out of the City of Rome, Our Lord appeared to him and asked “Quo Vadis?” – “Where are you going?” At that St. Peter turned around, went back into the city, and was crucified for Christ. This breathtaking basilica is built on the tomb of an ordinary man, a sinner, who allowed God to do extraordinary things in his life.
The message of St. John the Baptist may not seem all that extraordinary: give to those who do not have, be content with what you earn and so on… yet these ordinary instructions by the Baptist lend themselves to being profound witnesses to love. John’s words lend the people to an openness to receive, a humility that allows oneself to be formed and directed by God and toward Him.
How often in our own lives do we ask a similar question … “what must I do?” We ask this of those to whom we accountable – at work, school, coaches, teaches, and so forth. We ask this of friends, relatives, spouses and siblings in order to restore broken relationships. But I also think that we get this confused with another question: “what do I want to do” – sometimes this selfish inquiry gets in the way of “what I must do” – of that which is the right thing… of allowing God to His work in us… “What do I want” – a question asked by young people in trying to decide what to do in life … a question asked by adults to our younger generation – what do you want? This was not a question St. Peter pondered … He thought not of Himself but more on how to give glory to Jesus Christ, how to honor Him with his words and by the witness of His life … St. Peter, the fisherman, helped Christianity spread like wildfire … He was an ordinary man who allowed God to do extraordinary things in his life…
Friends, today the Diocese of Springfield has only 1 seminarian – who is finishing up his first semester of studies. That means we will not have another new priest for 3 ½ more years … think of the number of priests who will retire in that time … think of, God forbid, the number of priests that might die… Yet, just because we only have 1 man in seminary does not mean that God is not calling men to be His priests. There are vocations in the Diocese of Springfield but we all have to do our part to encourage – first our young people to do that which is right, true and good, to seek God in their lives, to not be selfish … and thus begin to hear God speak to them and direct them according to His will. Second, we must not be afraid to lend our voices to the men of our diocese that we think might make good priests and encourage them to follow the Lord’s call. You see, Jesus isn’t looking for the strong and powerful … He’s looking for ordinary men who are willing to let Him do extraordinary things – like transform bread and wine into His Body and Blood … Forgive sins … escort the dying into Heaven … We need to help our young people especially stop focusing on their selfish needs – what do I want – and begin to focus on “what must I do?” Not out of a blind obedience with no reason … but rather with heart open to being formed by God and directed by Him …
Therefore, I am going to issue a challenge to you all – St. John the Baptist spoke openly, without compromise, yet simply and directly. He didn’t use fancy words nor had a particularly astounding message … Yet people heard him. We can do the same. Lend your voice to a man who think might make a good priest… speak to that man before Lent – speak directly, positively, and encouraging … because you never know who might be listening … you never know just how ordinary words can be transformed into a profound witness of love … that just might be what it takes rekindle a culture of vocations in this diocese and in this parish.