Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year C – World Day of Prayer for Vocations (7 & 8/5/22)

posted 9 May 2022, 04:48 by Parish Office

Serving the Lord can be daunting. For most of us, our calling to serve the Lord begins when we are baptised as babies. As we grow up, we begin to learn more and more what it involves to follow the Lord. At times it’s wonderful: we go to Mass and feel afterwards so wonderful inside, it’s as if we are floating! But at other times, it’s a rough road. All those things that we shouldn’t do, that we find so easy to do: trying to cut corners with our schoolwork; getting annoyed with our brothers and sisters; being told “no” by our parents. When I was at primary school, I had a friend on my table who was from another religion. I can remember thinking that life was easy for him, because all he had to do was go to the temple on a Sunday, and then for the rest of the week he could do what he liked. Of course, that’s probably not how his religion really worked, but I knew as a child that there was more to being a Catholic than just going to Mass on a Sunday – you had to put it into practice for the rest of the week.

That challenge doesn’t go away when you become a priest, either. When I was training for the priesthood, I came across a similar sort of saying: it’s one thing being a nice priest for an hour on Sunday, but you’ve got to make it last for the whole of the week.

So people know that being a Catholic isn’t always easy. Of course, there are great joys and consolations too, and sometimes, cradle Catholics don’t always appreciate that. It’s the converts, who have experience “on the other side”, as it were, who appreciate the difference it makes now having purpose and direction in their lives, knowing where they have come from (God) and where the are going to (God), and who can show them how to live their lives to the max (God). So if we’re not careful, we can begin to develop a distorted image of God, which sees Him only as to do with “no” and never with “yes”, with always the things we don’t want to do and are difficult, rather than the things that make life wonderful and that we do want to do.

The same, then, can go with a vocation. We are all called to serve the Lord. The question is: in what way? Some can be afraid of being on their own and being single. Others can be afraid of marriage and what it might bring. The religious life: am I really holy enough for that? And for some, the priesthood just seems like completely off the scale.

We have to begin with Christ. We have to get to know Him and trust Him, by growing close to Him in prayer. Perhaps we might need to do a bit of exploring the faith by ourselves. It can be a bit like buying a new car: rather than just looking at it from a distance, you need to have a look inside, see what it’s like. Are the seats comfortable? How does it drive? What features does it have? If we are to be comfortable in our faith, we need to explore it for ourselves. How well do we know the Bible? Do we know why the Mass is the way it is and what it’s all about? When did you last try praying the Rosary? What’s Benediction all about? What does the Church say about work, about a fair wage, taking part in trade unions, appropriate rest and relaxation etc.?

When we begin to feel at home with Christ, with our faith, with the church building, then it’s a bit less daunting to ask the Lord what our vocation is. For some of us here today, it’s already decided. As St Paul said, “If you are tied to a wife, do not look for freedom” (1 Cor 7:27). For others, it is still an open question, whether for ourselves or others that we know. And, as I was saying, just like with growing up as a child, with vocation there can be what I think I want to do, and what God wants me to do. A religious sister once said that (obviously before she joined her religious order) she was planning to get married. She can remember looking at herself in the mirror in her wedding dress, and having a sense of God saying to her: this isn’t what you are being called to.

If you join a religious order, you take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. For a teenager, all of those seem difficult. Chastity – certainly. Poverty – never being able to have the stuff that you want. Obedience!!! They look forward to leaving home so they can do their own thing, not to have someone else telling them what to do for the rest of their lives. If you become a diocesan priest, you don’t take a promise of poverty. But you do make promises to your bishop of celibacy, respect and obedience. And obedience can mean that you don’t know where in the diocese you are going to be for the whole of your priestly life. In this diocese, you can be literally sent to Coventry. There’s actually quite a sizeable Catholic population there. Or you could be sent to a very small, rural parish. You could be sent to Sacred Heart, Hanley, and have other priests say things to you like, “well done for getting that parish”, or, “I wish I was being sent there”. What

makes someone happy to give up the chance of a family, a good career, a well-paid job, all those sorts of things? Quite simply, love of the Lord.

“Jesus said:

The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice;

I know them and they follow me.

I give them eternal life;

they will never be lost

and no one will ever steal them from me.”

If we know what it means to follow the Lord, if in love we abandon ourselves to Him, then we are prepared to go to the very ends of the world for Him. Or to live our lives in the same street in Stoke-on-Trent for the rest of our lives. Whatever He asks.

Today we celebrate World Day of Prayer for Vocations. That means we should pray. Let’s spend a bit of time in prayer today, by ourselves, asking the Lord to help us know Him better, to serve Him better, and to follow Him, whatever He may ask of us next.