After my ordination to the priesthood two years ago, my bishop whispered to me, “Now you are a priest, you must start looking for your replacement when you retire, you must talk and promote vocations.” With this in mind I chose my first topic for our bulletin, to talk about vocations, sharing my own vocation story.
A vocation is always personal. And I would dare to say, that my priestly vocation is my call to being a Christian and following Jesus. Everyone is called to follow Jesus, but each one has his or her own way. I, Charles, and everyone else must discover his/her way of being a follower of Christ. The most important and that which gives meaning to our lives is to be open to God’s call. I must say yes to Him, to that which He asks of me without conditions. Abraham is the best example of this putting oneself into the hands of God. "Leave your country; I will give you another." But where? When? Along what roads? He did not know, but he trusted and believed in the goodness of God.
Let me make this very clear, when God calls us, it's always in order to give us something. It might be the land promised to Abraham or the liberation of the Israelites through Moses. God called Mary in order to give human flesh to the Word, so that through Him, all of humanity might be united with the Father. I also want to suggest that God's invitation and call can be frightening; in fact it must be frightening. Abraham and all the others, including Mary, were disturbed and confused in the face of the God's call. This happens because at first the call seems to be too high, too difficult, and too beautiful for us.
The vocation/discernment journey is authentic when Jesus conquers our life, attracts us; then we can say yes, that radical yes which gives value to everything, which can make it worthwhile to be a priest, religious, happily married or even the single life. The most important vocation is that which God has called you to embrace.
I was born 35 years ago as youngest in a family of seven children, four brothers and three sisters. As I grew up my parents gave me instructions in religious education and in particular what it means to be a Catholic. I learned to revere the name of Christ, to have devotion to Mary, Mother of our Savior Jesus Christ, and to have a great desire for God. As a young boy I was an active altar server. As a young man in high school I was a member of the Young Catholic Association. When I joined college all this changed. I stopped going to Church with an excuse that I was busy with schoolwork and had a part time job. What this meant was that I had decided I had no time for God, after all, I was in a good college and had a good job. With this there was a vacuum in my life that needed to be filled…and how did I do this? I used to party and spend most of my time and money on alcohol, girls and going to clubs. My life was a life of pleasure and enjoyment with no commitment to anyone but me. At one point I realized something was wrong and that I needed help. I talked with a priest friend and after a couple of weeks of journeying with him, he advised me to seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation after which I felt I had been reborn into a new life of mercy and forgiveness. After this experience I started going for an hour of Adoration every day and this totally changed my life; I began desiring for a different way of life. It was with this habit of prayer and daily Adoration that my life was opened to listening to God. It is through prayer that I discerned God had a different purpose for my life; He wanted me to serve him in this beautiful vocation of ministerial priesthood. Jesus called me in my weakness, he called me as a sinner, and He daily calls each of us, in our weaknesses, to follow him.
Through the Sacrament of Baptism we begin the journey of following Him, and the question that each one of us should ask is, “how do we nurture this relationship with Jesus so that it grows stronger and richer rather than becoming stagnant and complacent?” The good news is that while your commitment to follow Jesus is not without sacrifice, is it without reward either. The Bible tells us that the disciples left everything they had, including family, without questioning. They left the known for the unknown. They faced their fears. They followed Christ on the adventure of a lifetime. Jesus promised that they would receive “a hundred times as much” as what they left behind and “will inherit eternal life.”
My advice to the people of St. Gabriel, and in particular the youth, is to take time from your busy life and spend some time with our Lord, especially in Eucharistic Adoration. Ask him what he wants of you. It may take weeks, or months or even years, but if you are sincere and listen, you may find out that he is calling you to this special vocation of serving him as a priest or religious. “The harvest is rich but the laborers are few.” And so, let us ask the Lord of the harvest to send laborers to his harvest. My prayer for you this day is that you might be open to hearing God’s voice and have the courage to follow him wherever he might lead you.