In today’s Gospel Jesus tells his disciples “As the Father Loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.” At one of my former parishes, we sent out a quarterly Newsletter, known as the pulse referring to the concerns of the people as the heartbeat of the community. When I was in seminary the title of our yearbook was Cor ad Cor meaning our interactions with one another were from Heart to Heart. In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks about his love for the Father and for us, reminding us to remain in that love. I can’t imagine a better way to live than by remaining in God’s love. Unfortunately, there are times today when people justify violence for seeking peace rather than recognizing peace comes from love, forgiveness and understanding. Perhaps that’s why Jesus refers to love 18 times in today’s readings hoping - if we hear it enough - we will finally get it.
Many of us can remember our parents repeating things over and over to be sure we remembered what they told us. I remember a former staff member, Sister Loretta Beyer telling me about how she had fifty second graders when she was teaching grade school and how she had to repeat things over and over so they would remember. Then 15 years later she was asked to teach 8th graders. She mistakenly started out by teaching them same way she taught her 2nd graders, by repeating things over and over until one day a young man raised his hand and asked: Sister, do you think we’re stupid? She asked why he thought that and he replied: because you keep repeating things over and over. She then said I am so sorry and explained to them she taught 2nd graders for 15 years and had to keep repeating things in order for them to remember.
In today’s Gospel Jesus is speaking to his disciples about love. He wants to be sure they understand the meaning of love - so he refers to love over and over again. Love defines who we are as Christians and instills within us a new way of living. When the substance of our lives is given to God, we grow in a deeper relationship with him but there are also those who seek a more profound relationship with God. We need to take a look at the men and women who seek religious life. The Diocese suggested parish priests should speak about vocations to religious life - so I decided to do that today. A few weeks ago we read about the Good Shepherd and how he was willing to sacrifice his life for his sheep. Last week we read about the vine and the branches and how we need to stay attached to the vine so we don’t get separated from God and wither and die. This week Jesus speaks about love and how it must remain in us because love is of God.
Jesus says to his disciples in today’s Gospel: “It was not you who chose me but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last. Though these words are meant for everyone they have a deeper meaning for those called to the priesthood or religious life. When we hear the words: I chose you to bear fruit, Jesus is not just asking everyone to share their faith - but he is also calling forth young men and women to commit their entire lives to this mission.
Bishop Ricken in his book: Be Thou My Vision; mentions how God is calling men and women into his service amidst the storm and that in time the Lord will quiet the winds but in the meantime we must hold fast to him - no matter how fierce the winds may be. He then goes on to say that one does not enter priesthood or religious life as one enters the Army or navy or as the medical field or become a lawyer, but they are chosen personally by Jesus for a definite task in the church to lead people to him knowing that during the challenges of this ministry - God is always with them.
How does one know if they are called to this way of life? They don’t always know but it often comes from an inner longing for more in life. One is seeking to be fulfill in a way that can’t come out of one’s job or status in life. It comes out of one’s search for fulfillment in their spiritual life that leads them to serve God. When I first entered seminary one of my professors said the reason we were here is because we asked three questions: Who am I? Where and I going, and what is life all about and even though many people may ask these questions, He said that some people are looking for meaning in their lives that ordinary life couldn’t offer them. This is not to say family life isn’t beautiful because it is as this is where vocations come from, but priesthood is for those who are seeking a deeper relationship with God and to giving their lives for the service for others that time and dedication to one’s family won’t allow.
Many people to be successful in their lives have to immerse themselves into their family and into their work. Priesthood is an immersion into the mystery of God. When one is immersed into the mystery of God the savoring of that mystery becomes the very heart of priesthood This is when the heart of the priest is transformed. There is something unique about priestly identity and the mysteries in which the priest is engaged as we think about a face to face encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist. This is where the priest savors his love and opens his whole being to Jesus. Sometimes the priest has to step back & remind himself of the privilege he has to serve God and his people. The priest then invites his people to have that same privilege of an encounter with Jesus in the blessed sacrament during adoration and reception of Jesus in holy communion. This immersion in God’s love transforms everyone’s lives not only in what they do but by what they have become. Those who live out this truth - become saints
The priesthood is not a life - just central to the priest’s call to holiness - but it is central to everyone’s call to holiness. I remember one of my professors telling us as seminarians to be careful not to do any harm to the faith of the older people who comes to church every day because they may have more faith in God - than we may ever have. Diocesan priesthood isn’t just a private way of life but it is a call to serve the community to baptize, to teach, to help people distinguish right from wrong, to help them seek forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation, to prepare them for holy communion and for the beauty of the sacrament of marriage and to help them know Jesus is always with them..
If you are looking for something that’s going to touch lives and bring people closer to God maybe it isn’t a career you should be looking for but a vocation. One is called to religious life to lead people to God’s kingdom. We all want to go to heaven and we need someone to help get us there. The priest can anoint the sick, forgive their sins, comfort them when they are dying helping them to know the love and mercy of Jesus - and give them a Christian burial. God wants to embrace all of us in his love and from that love, heal and to save us.
All of us have a vocation, whether we are married or single or religious, you and I are each called into a relationship with God. This is what a vocation is, one’s relationship with God, but there is also a specific way of life that calls men and women into a more intimate union with God and that is the vocation to religious life where one choses to live their lives for God so they can become more intentional in leading others to Christ by helping people to turn away from sin and keep their minds and hearts on God. We are in desperate need in the church - to have priests and religious to help us do that.
Jesus will keep inviting men and women to become Priests and religious to help set the church on fire – so people will respond to God’s love and mercy once again. Jesus in calling Peter to serve the church reminded him of his need to make restitution when he denied him three times in the garden when he asked Peter if he loved him. Peter responded yes lord - you know that I love you and then Jesus says to him feed my lambs. He then said to him a second time Simon son of John do you love me. Peter said to him again yes lord, you know that I love you. He said to him tend my sheep. Jesus said to Peter a third time Simon son of John do you love me. We are told Peter was very distressed that Jesus asked him a third time if he loved him and he said to Jesus Lord, you know everything you know that I love you. Jesus said to him Feed my sheep. Jesus then told Peter to follow him.
Peters threefold profession of faith indicates that the priesthood isn’t only about saying yes to Jesus but it’s also about renewing that yes and feeding and serving his sheep .Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel that if we keep his commandments, we will remain in his love just as he has kept my father’s commandments and remain in his love. Jesus tells us this so his joy may be in us and our joy may be complete and he tells us to love one another as he has loved us and that there is no greater love than to lay down our lives for our friend.
Pray for vocations to priesthood and religious life to help you to live your life for God Pray that your faith will grow stronger . Pray for your families - that they too will come to know God’s love and mercy