As its Good Shepherd Sunday, I thought I'd talk a little about what this day means to me. Today, the Church invites us to committ to praying for vocations - yet it doesn't end there - Holy Mother Church also asks us to look deeply into our very selfs and ask some serious questions:
- What are we doing about the fact, that today, there are so few candidates presenting themselves for service in the priestly ministry?
- What would we say if one of our own has discerned that God is calling He/She to the priesthoold or religous life?
- Are we willing to let this trend continue, or do we want to do what God is asking of us and beg for Him to send Labourers into the Harvest?
The list of questions you could ask is endless, but these three are important because they get right to the heart of the problem. One of the major issues guys coming to the seminary find now is that people often look at them in a different light when they say, "I think God is calling me to be a priest". Instead of the person thanking God, immediately what comes to mind is the "Oh, that means you wont get married, have children," we dwell on the loosing out that we don't think God has blessed the person. We treat them as if God has cursed them. I don't deny that what we are called to is a sacrificial calling in so many ways, yet that calling is such a great gift from God.
That invitation to come and see or rather, come and experience is something to rejoice over. God is asking the person to consider further, the calling to priestly ministry. A calling to serve in the very person of Jesus Christ, feeding his people and bringing the "Good News" of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Is that not a good call, is that not noble? I think its marvelous, but so many worry that we'll be lonely or over worked that they forget the joy of what the priesthood brings to so many people, including the priest himself.
Also, how many of you actively encourage people to think about the priesthood? I'm not saying throw guys into the seminary, but do you ever say to someone "Why don't you consider the priesthood" or "have you ever considered the call to serve as a priest". Both questions are gentle and they might get little reactions, but they plant a seed, which then allows God to nuture it and to make it grow. A lot of priests are so because of this kind of approach.
Another serious problem we have is the culture we live in. I believe the phone is ringing off the hook with God asking people to become priests, but I think in todays culture vocations can so easily die, because they are not nourtured in in a Christian or better Catholic environment. In a time of our local elections, we should consider the parties or candidates that will strive to bring back Christian values into families, schools and communities because ultimately, we need to ensure that our people are able to live and work and pray without being persecuted. At the moment we are, yet it seems to me as if we are happy to sit back and take the blows. Thats not right and its going against the spirit of the Church right through the ages. Those early Christians who were killed in the Collesium in Rome or throughout the persecutions went to their death singing because one they knew they were going to Heaven, and two because it showed the world the Christians were serious about the truth of their faith. They died so that we might be able to worship, live and work as we ought to be. Its an insult to let this trend of secularization go on without a fight. Its its up to every single one of you to take a stand!!
The Good Shepherd is not some mythical figure that is a nice image for the Church, it is Jesus Christ himself who invites us to lay down his life for his sheep. To stand at the Alter and to bring the creator of the world into our very hands so that His people may receive Jesus each day to bring nourishment and strength and the forgiveness of our sins.
Please pray for us all who are training, but also pray for those who God is calling, support them and give them the encouragement they need, so that they might be better prepared to say "Yes" to the Lord.