XIV Sunday in Ordinary Time
7 July 2019
The word ‘vocation’ comes from the Latine ‘vocare’ … meaning: to call out. Those of you who went to Deacon Valentine’s ordination saw exactly this … the candidates for ordination are literally called out of the congregation and presented to the Bishop … and to God … setting them apart for a very specific life, and role in the Church.
Notice in the gospel today Jesus sends out 72 of His disciples for mission … to prepare for His arrival in the surrounding towns and villages. Compare that with what we heard last week when He invited 3 people to be a part of this mission and they rejected Him. This commissioning mirrors the call of the Twelve Apostles but also is indicative of growth and movement. The message I think, is that the preaching of the Gospel, preparing people to have an encounter with God is not only the responsibility of the Twelve but for the whole Church, for all of Jesus’ followers.
I think there is a struggle in the Church today to understand what is our mission. Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses send their people out in pairs and go door to door. Catholics don’t do that. How then do we articulate the message of the Gospel? Are we comfortable allowing that message to spread through agencies and institutions … many of which do not do an adequate job of it! It falls then to all of us … perhaps not door to door … but in our in conversations, in the way we treat one another, in our homes, workplaces, social settings to speak and witness more boldly and courageously to the love and mercy of God … to speak the truth about virtue and moral living … to offer people a place to come to worship, be at peace, and to find reconciliation with God.
If we as a Church, especially the Church in U.S. … if we understood more fully what exactly is our mission, would we be in the vocation crisis in which we find ourselves? Remember that after Valentine’s class is ordained priests, we currently have no one in formation – not one man studying for the priesthood. How are young man to hear the call if we are neglectful of our mission? How are they to be encouraged to pursue a life set apart for the Kingdom, for God, for the Church if we are not encouraging them, talking to them, setting an example of what it means to be a witness to Jesus … In other words, showing them Jesus, pointing them to Him. God knows if I would be a priest today if it weren’t for people like that … people who encouraged me, talked to me about the life and ministry of priests … helped me to understand that there is a need for “laborers” for the Kingdom.
So, while the message is entrusted to all of us, the whole Church … God still sets apart, He calls out, some from among us for a very specific life and mission – men dedicated to preaching, teaching, sanctifying the people. Priests do this in order to prepare people for encounters with God – just like the 72 in the gospel today. And in those encounters, we help make Jesus known to others, we help build one another up in faith … and the bottom line is that we need priests to make Jesus sacramentally present in the Eucharist. Please do not think that you cannot help in encouraging vocations … add it to your list of daily prayers, speak to a young man who you think might make a good priest, pray specifically for seminarians … we need to show young men the need for priests … show them Jesus by the way we live – faithfully and with purpose.