Responding to His Invitation

1.4.18 Thurs. before Epiphany – (II)
1st Letter of St. John.  3:  7 – 10
Gospel  John  1:  35 – 42

John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”  the two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.  Jesus turned and saw the them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?”  They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?”  He said to them, “Come and you will see.”  So they went and saw where he was staying and they stayed with him that day.  It was about four in the afternoon.  Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.  He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah, “ which is translated Christ.  Then he brought him to Jesus.  Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John, you will be called Cephas,” which is translated Peter.   The Gospel of the Lord.


Homily:  Fr. Mike Murphy                  Responding To His Invitation

“What are you looking for?” (John 1:38)  It’s a question many of us ask ourselves.  What are we really looking for?  We often lead lives that distract us from the answer that lies truly in the depths of our being.  But we don’t always see it because we are afraid of what the answer might be.

Last week I went out to Palm Springs to celebrate a burial service for one of our parishioners.  As I was driving through the Coachella Valley it holds many memories for me from the late 1970s in Palm Springs. I lived there during my radio career when I was a radio personality.  I had a great career with friends and success as a radio personality.  But it was also there that I heard that question at the center of my being: ‘What are you looking for?”  After quite some time of putting off answering it, coming up with all kinds of excuses I thought were true, I was finally honest with myself.  I realized that I wanted more than that life I had.  It was then that I began to consider the possibility of a vocation to the priesthood.

A lot of us think we are searching for God and spend our lives saying pious prayers, going on retreats, because we are searching for that relationship with God.  In reality, it is the Lord who is searching for us.  He wants us.  We must simply listen to His voice and answer His call.  The Lord is very close to us.  A vocation is a call from God.

Some have the attitude that they are doing God a favor when they respond to what He wants them to do.  We will journey down a spiritual path and we think we are doing Him a great favor, and want Him to remember this when we ask Him for something.  But are we deceiving ourselves?  †Jesus has been looking for me for a very long time, but I kept putting up barriers and running away from Him.

Four years earlier my older brother left the seminary.  He was in a missionary order, and in his third year theology.  And as clear as day, when I heard the news, that he was leaving the seminary, I heard that interior voice say: “I’m not looking for him, I want you.”

Well, I would have nothing to do with that.  I was having way-too-much–fun, so I simply ignored the voice, which, in reality, I could not do.  I came up with all sorts of excuses as to why I was not worthy.  For four years I was running away from the ‘Hound of Heaven.’  We read this in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God, and God never ceases to draw man to Himself.  Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for” (CCC, 27)

The French Philosopher, Blaise Pascal, once described this desire as an infinite abyss that “can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object…God Himself.” (Pensees, 1688)  As this desire becomes satisfied, then we are compelled to share our faith with others.  Just as a parent shares their faith with their children; because they are compelled to do so; once they found that richness, that pearl of great price, they want others to rejoice in it.

John the Baptist pointed to †Jesus and declared: “Behold the Lamb of God.” (John 1:36)  He did that for the benefit of those around him because he wanted to take the focus off himself; he was not the Messiah and people were mistaking him for the Messiah.  So in the presence of His followers he said: “There is the Lamb of God.”  Two of John’s disciples heard what he said and followed †Jesus.  Andrew was one of those and he then went looking for his brother Simon, and shared with him who he had found.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, whose memory we celebrate today, did the same thing.  She was a convert to the faith; she was an Episcopalian.  She was introduced to †Jesus by others.  She founded the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph to share what she had found with children.  Then in 1800s she began the first Catholic School system in the U.S.

We know we are responding to our vocation if we are led to experience a growing intimacy with the Lord.   The Lord draws us in and we say “Yes”, surrendering to His will.   When this happens no sacrifice is too great if the Lord asks us.  Whether it is as a priest, a vowed person, a married person, single person, widowed, divorced, it makes no difference, the Lord continues to call us, to draw us in.  Even within our vocation †Jesus continues to call us, and ask: “What are you looking for”?  He asks: “What are you looking for as a priest; as a married person”?  “What are you looking for as a single person”?   If you are a widow or divorced: “What are you looking”?  He still asks that question regardless of where we are in life, because there is another vocation that we all share.  It is the vocation to holiness, the vocation to be saints.  We are all called to be saints.

There are those whose state-in-life vocation has ended tragically, through divorce, the death of a spouse, or possibly leaving sacred vows.  But †Jesus still asks us: ““What are you looking for”?  And the answer is: “Lord, I want to be holy as you are holy.  I want to be a saint.”

When Elizabeth Ann Seton’s husband died, leaving her with five small children, she continued to respond to God’s call; her call to holiness.

Our response to God’s call, is not a singular event, it is a lifetime mission.  When I left Palm Springs and my radio career and entered St. Francis Seminary; that wasn’t a singular event for my vocation.  Every day when I get up I respond: “O. K. Lord, what do you want of me today?”  Whatever state in life we find ourselves, regardless of failures in the past or the times we have not responded to the God’s will, the Lord never stops calling us: ever!  He continues to draw us to Himself.  If you have been running or feel lost today, listen to His call again.  Respond to †Jesus: “Where are you staying, Lord.    Where are you staying”?  Don’t be afraid when He responds: “Come and see”.  Take a risk; just take that risk, because He will lead you to holiness of life.

In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.