Homily for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Only Vocation: universal call to love
Dearly Beloved, this weekend begins the National Vocation Awareness Week. We thank God for calling our own children and family members to share in his ministry as priests. It is also an occasion to pray for our priests and religious.
Friends, as a church, we often easily think of vocation in terms of ordained ministers (deacons, priests) or those who enter the religious life as consecrated brothers and sisters. This is a valid, but limited, understanding of the word ‘vocation’. Vocation literally means calling. As a church we use the term to refer to a calling from God. Since we are all unique and God calls us to different ministries in life, we can safely say we all have unique vocations.
St. John Paul II, wrote, to be able to identify your vocation, you should be able to answer sincerely the question “Why am I alive”
At times we are equally tempted to see vocation as what we are called to do instead of what we are called to be. The Second Vatican Council emphasizes our universal calling to be holy and sanctity of life as a universal vocation. In his article,, the “Importance of vocations”, Andreas Widmer lists three levels of vocation.
- The Universal call to Holiness. This references the Baltimore catechism in answering why God created us. Your universal vocation is to know, love and serve God in this life, so that we can love and serve in eternity in the life to come.
- Primary Vocation. Your primary vocation is this way of life you chose to love and serve God and others. There are four (4) primary vocations: single life, married life, priestly life and consecrated life or religious life.
- Secondary Vocation. This third level of vocation is what you do each day with the path of your primary vocation. So as a priest my secondary vocation, is the daily life of prayer, celebration of the sacraments and caring for the souls entrusted to my care. Yours may be your work, profession and providing and caring for your family. The importance is that we see these actions as a God given responsibility by which we will be judged accordingly.
Permit me to use this occasion to single out and elaborate on the vocation to the priesthood and religious life. Families, I urge you to encourage and support their young ones to the priestly or religious life. One way to support a young person in this path is ensuring a very solid and good catholic education for them where possible. Again when families maintain good Catholic homes, they support the formation of young people in these vocations.
Dearly beloved, I did not have catholic education until high school. And even my choice of a high school was based on my experience at home. My father of blessed memory, a very pious man would always gather us to pray and perform other devotions. He taught us Catholic prayers, sung traditional catholic hymns in my dialect, read the bible to us and exhorted us. He was not very much at home because of business. But for some reason, all my inspiration toward the priesthood came from him. He served on the altar from the time I knew him till the very time he passed away.
Friends, as I sat in the pews last Friday during the adoration, thoughts of those childhood moments came to me. As an altar server, I walked about 4 miles almost every morning to serve at my local church and walked about 3miles to get to school. On some Sundays, I was assigned to travel with an associate priest to celebrate at mission parishes in some villages. This was so rewarding as we were given various forms of gifts like eggs, chickens, toiletries, farm produce etc. Some of these priests were generous and would share with us. I can go on and on. But from that time, I had no idea of any other thing than becoming a priest. Surprisingly when I grew after high school there was no interest again. However, circumstances (which I will call grace) directed me to the seminary. A long story cut short, here I am.
Dearly Beloved, the readings today remind us of the most important of the law. From the first five books of the bible, one can record about 613 laws. They are not just the 10 commandments that we are familiar. 365 of them are prohibitions, things we should not do (don’t do this or that). The rest, 248 are prescriptive, deals with what we should do. So the question the scribe asked was a very important one. Of all these laws, which is the first. In response, Jesus quotes from our first reading Deuteronomy 6:5. Jesus did not just give him the first but the greatest of them all.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind,
and with all your strength.
And the second from Leviticus 19:18.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these."
Dearly Beloved, whatever your vocation is, let the love of God and things that matter to Him be your goal: Church, prayer, bible reading and meditation etc. Again, love and care for people, family, friends, colleagues at work, even those who hate you. These are what you should love above money, riches, position of honor etc. Go and love God and one another.