Vocation and Holiness

4.24.18  Tues. 4th wk of Easter  (II)

Acts of Apostles  11:  9 – 26

Gospel  of  John  10:  22  30

The feast of the Dedication was taking place in Jerusalem.  It was winter.   And †Jesus walked about in the temple area on the Portico of Solomon.  So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense?  If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” †Jesus answered them, “I told you and you do not believe.  The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me.  But you do not believe, because you are not among my sheep.  My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.   I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.   No one can take them out of my hand.   My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.  The Father and I are one.”         The Gospel of the Lord.


Homily:  Fr. Mike Murphy                            Vocation and Holiness

In yesterday’s Gospel, †Jesus calls Himself the ‘Gate’: “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the sheep-gate, whoever enters through me, will be saved”. (Jn.:10:7)  And today we continue to reflect on the Good Shepherd discourse of †Jesus.  Today †Jesus announces that He is not only the gate, He’s the ‘voice’.  “My sheep hear my voice, I know them and they follow me”. (Jn. 10:27)  This entire ‘Good Shepherd’ discourse is an invitation by †Jesus to us – an invitation to an intimate relationship with †Jesus, a deep friendship with †Jesus.  †Jesus is faithful, †Jesus is good, and we can accept His invitation without any fear, because we are His.  We are the ones He loves.  We are the ones He died for.

And at every moment of our life the Lord is beckoning us: “Come, come follow me”.  He is inviting us to a relationship in and through our vocation – whatever that vocation might be.  In fact, on Sunday we celebrated “World Day of Prayer for Vocations”.  So we continue to reflect upon how the Lord calls us in our vocation, the state in life that we find ourselves – married, single, consecrated, or ordained.  It is how the Lord calls us; and it is a deeper way to live our faith.  Do I respond to my vocation, my call to relationship with faith, hope, and love?  And do I do that in a minimal way?  Or, do I do it to the maximum?

To accept His invitation to this mystical relationship requires that I carry the ‘Word of God’ with me – everywhere that I go.  And we follow in the footsteps of the early disciples as we hear in the Acts of the Apostles – our first reading.  They traveled from Jerusalem to “Cyprus, Phoenicia and Antioch proclaiming the Word” (Acts 11:19) – preaching the ‘Word”.

What is the proof of a true loving relationship?  It is the willingness to spend time to develop that relationship.  (Speaking to the students: That’s how you make good friends, right?  You spend time with your friends and you become closer.)  The sign of a growing mystical friendship with the Lord is the willingness to develop my relationship with †Jesus daily – through prayer, and self-gift.

Let’s look at how we do that in our vocation.  We deepen and develop the relationship in various ways.  For those of you who are married – you do this in your sacramental covenant with your spouse and how you care for your children.  Your marriage can be a journey of holiness!  A daily striving for the perfection of love and that should be the goal every day.  Today, my love for my spouse is going to be more perfect than it was yesterday.  Every night before I go to bed- my last prayer is: ‘Lord, I hope tomorrow I am a better priest than I was today’; I’m trying to grow.  Daily – living the example of fidelity and generous love – is the goal – as spouses become cooperators in the fruitfulness of the Church.  That is how the married state leads the couple to holiness.

For those who are single or widowed or divorced – you also contribute to the holiness of God’s people. Because you are free for a more active generous response – to love God through others – through being a volunteer – through being involved in ministry.  You may have more time to give of yourself to others.  In fact – in the early Church there was a group called ‘The Order of Widows’.  It was an organized group of women who were widows and they were very helpful and instrumental to the growth of the early Church because they took on a lot of the works of charity – The Order of Widows.  It is through The Order of Widows that we receive the term “Deaconess’.  That oftentimes has been confused with the idea of a permanent Deaconate like we have now with our four Deacons.  But in the early Church, women who were part of this ‘Order of Widows’ were called ‘Deaconesses’, because it described a function that they served in the Church.  The term was a little confusing, but – it was not brought about by the laying on of hands, it was just an extension of this ‘Order of Widows’.  So those of you who are single, widowed or divorced – you have the opportunity to promote more fully the gifts of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, generosity, and self control – all this for the sanctification of humanity.

This is what Pope Francis writes in his recent Apostolic Exhortation on “The Call lo Holiness’.  “To be holy does not require being a Bishop, a priest, or a religious.  We are frequently tempted to think that holiness is only for those who withdraw from ordinary affairs to spend much time in prayer.  That is not the case – we are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do wherever we find ourselves”. (Gaudete et Exsultate, 14)  So those who are married, single, widowed, divorced, in the lay state – you are called to holiness – to be saints!

Finally – the men and women whose vocations embrace the consecrated life i.e. priests, deacons and religious, are likewise called to be saints.  I deepen my relationship with the Lord through my ministry to God’s people, both in spiritual ways and in temporal ways, because this is my way to holiness.  This is what the Lord has chosen for me, how I am called to be a saint.

A vocation, like any relationship – needs diligence and growth and intentionality.  I must intentionally want to be a saint – it’s just not going to happen – I’ve got to want it and I have to dispose myself to the graces to make it happen.  Be not discouraged by failure or weakness.  Many in our culture see us as chaff to be burned because we are Christians; but

†Jesus sees us as a harvest to be reaped and given as a gift to His Father.

In today’s Gospel, †Jesus makes promises to the faithful who follow Him and hear His voice.  He promises a life that is eternal; that we will know the splendor of a life with God.  He promises us life with no end, that death is only the beginning of our life and a life that is secure.  And He says: “No one will take us from the hand of the Father.  We may not be saved from sorrow or from hard times, but joy is present through our awareness of God’s embrace in our life, even during difficult times.  In human suffering we will know the serenity of the Lord if we embrace Him.  Intimacy with God brings peace and consolation.  Recall the words of St. Augustine:

“My heart is restless until it rests in you, O Lord”. (Confessions)

We’re invited, all of us here, to respond to the Lord’s voice with courage, and with fidelity – to an intimate relationship with †Jesus through our vocation.  As the psalmist declares in our Responsorial Psalm this morning:

“And all shall sing, in their festive dance: “My home is with you”. (Ps.87:7)

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