St. Michael's Parish - Cobourg

Vocations, a Gift From God                                                               -Homily May 11, 2014

 

It is Mother’s Day, and it is also the world day of prayer for vocations, especially to the priestly life. All the readings of this Sunday speak of the good shepherd. Mothers are very important in a priestly vocation. Behind a priest, often there is a mother who offered her son to God. The mother of a vocation makes her child feel free in front of that decision, she supports him but without pressure. Because her love is disinterested, she is usually the refuge of her son, and because she is so ready to sacrifice, she will always hold her tears in order to see her son happy as a priest.

 

We need more priests, not because they are better persons, but because we want to have Mass. We enjoy coming to Church and having someone who says the Mass for us. We enjoy having a priest ready to bless our house when I ask, to have a priest ready to visit the sick when we phone. Some people at the Golden Plough, a retirement home, are asking to have Mass more than once a month. They say, it is too little once a month. If we don’t go to the hospital for two weeks, patients become impatient, they start to kindly complain. We have, but we want more. In certain difficult places where there is no priest, people gather around a stole, they recite the Mass, and when they arrive to the words of consecration, some of them start to cry.

 

We need to pray for vocations. Priests get old, as everybody else, and the number of young people entering the seminaries does not match the necessities of the Church. In some places vocations grow in number, but in many other places the opposite is happening. We need to pray for vocations. It is what Jesus commanded us to do: “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2).

 

But instead of speaking about the necessity of priests, or the necessity of prayer for priests, I would like to speak about the way we should pray and work for vocations. Forgive me if I make it a little personal this time. Once I asked myself: “Why can we not get more people to enter the seminary? Are we not doing enough?” We pray for vocations, we preach about vocation, and in our work with young people we always offer to their consideration the possibility of religious and priestly life. We dedicate ourselves to the ministry of spiritual direction, confession and spiritual exercises, which are also effective ways of fostering vocations. Much more could be done, but the point I want to make is a different one.

 

If I ask myself “Am I not doing enough?” I am wrong from the beginning, at least in a certain sense. We have to do all we can, of course, but we are not to think that a priestly vocation is a consequence of our work. A priestly vocation is a gift. A priestly vocation is a miracle. The only one who can produce a miracle is God. God does not like people who attribute to themselves what is only his divine work. And sometimes we don’t get what we ask for, because we think that we will get it because of our own goodness, or our own good works. “Look, how many things I do for God! I should get what I want.” And we don’t get it. God teaches us in this way to be humble, and to recognize that a vocation is a miracle that only God can produce.

 

So, we don’t have to work? That is not what I have said. God wants to give us priestly vocations, and he also wants to give them through our prayers and our works. The person who prays will be heard, and the person who works will be rewarded with a vocation, if they pray and work in humility. So, if we recognize in our hearts that a vocation is a gift from God, and that we can do little more than nothing to help one, then, and only then, God will grant us what we desire. If we realize that we are poor and in need, God will fill our emptiness with his mercy. If we recognize that we are not able to produce something divine, God will give us the grace to do it, God will work through us in a mysterious way.

 

So let us renew our prayers and our efforts to work for priestly vocations. We need them, and God wants to call them. But let us do it in this way: let us confess in humility that we don’t deserve them, that we cannot produce them, but we hope to be heard by the infinite mercy of God. Be sure that, if we pray and work in this way, God will certainly grant us what we need. It is he himself who commanded us to pray for vocations.

 

Finally, what we have said about prayer and work for vocations applies in a certain sense to every prayer and every apostolic work we do. The prayer of the humble pierces the clouds (Sir 35:17) and God gives his grace to the humble, but resists the proud (cf. James 4:6). If we are praying for healing, or for a person to come back to Church, we need to pray in faith and humility. God will always hear the prayer of a humble person.

 

Let us offer this holy Mass for vocations to the priesthood. May the Lord grant us what he himself wants to give to his Church. –Fr. Andrew