[All public liturgies in the State of Ohio are currently suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. This will be one part homily and one part pastoral message to my parishioners.]
The gospel says that Christ, who is the shepherd, will call his sheep and they will follow because they know his voice. And Christ the shepherd leads his sheep to none other than himself, to Christ the gate, through which his sheep find pasture. As a gospel parable, this is more than just imagery, this is something that should speak to our experience of life. So have you heard the voice of the shepherd, and have you followed into his life?
On a very basic level, yes, you have. In the first reading today the crowds listening to Peter heard the shepherd’s voice. Peter raised his voice, and proclaimed that Jesus who was crucified is the Christ. Through the voice of Peter and through his preaching the crowd heard not just him, but the voice of God. They are cut to the heart and ask him how they are to respond, and Peter tells them to repent and be baptized. The crowd heard the voice of the shepherd, and it called them to baptism, so that through Christ they might find salvation.
Now you’ve been hearing a particular word in the scriptures today that keeps getting repeated and that I keep using: call. St. Peter said talked about whomever the Lord our God will call… Jesus said he calls his sheep by name… The Latin word for “call” is “vocare”. Vocation. When we talk about God calling us we are talking about our vocation. The common vocation that we all share is the vocation of Baptism. We have been called, by God, by name, to know his Son and be a Christian. In your own life you have been called to this great vocation of baptism. Your parents and your family, maybe friends growing up, maybe your spouse later in life, maybe saints, maybe even the scriptures themselves… something connected with you and called you into this faith. Through them, you heard the voice of the shepherd and entered into his life.
But God also takes our baptism and unfolds it into a further calling. Each of us have been drawn to one of the four major vocations: single life, married life, priestly life, and religious life. And beyond that, each of us are called to our particular vocation… so to use the freedom and flexibility of the single life for this specific purpose, to be married to this particular person, to be a priest for this particular parish, to be a religious of this particular order. From the great vocation of baptism, to the major vocations of a state in life, to the particular vocation of how we live that out here and now… this has been a story — our own story — of the shepherd calling, us hearing, us following, and us entering into the life of Christ. That’s what happened to St. Peter himself as he stepped in front of the crowd and answered his calling to be an Apostle to the people of Jerusalem, and that is what happens in our lives as we live our calling with passion and humility.
So… where in life have you heard the shepherd call you by name? I want you to know, I want you to have a conscious awareness of where the voice of God and the calling of the shepherd has broken into your particular life. And the real challenge, I want you to share it. Tell it to a close friend, to a parent, or to a spouse. Even just write it out privately and hit the delete button a few days later. But get some moment of your calling out of your head and into concrete expression.
And to be fair I’ll start. A calling to the priesthood builds itself over years in the quiet of daily life, but there were some moments that, quite clearly, were the voice of God seizing me. I will skip over how I ended up in the seminary for some other time. This moment I want to tell you was a year-and-a-half into seminary when I tried to leave! It was not a good start for me. By nature I’m a introvert and very reserved; those are good things and strengths that make me who I am, but it also meant I had weaknesses and there was a lot that needed to change and grow before I would be who I am today. But at the start I tried to leave. I told the rector I was leaving during the winter break and wouldn’t return. He told me to think it over a little more before making it official and I laughed! I’m not one to change my mind without reason. But during that little delay I went and talked with one of the priests at my parish, more to tell him the news than to seek advice. I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what exactly he said even back at the moment I left his office. I just remember listening to him and feeling like time was slowing down, like the snow falling outside the window was hanging in the air… and thinking to myself “I can’t leave, I have to go back.” If God had not called me, had not intervened to delay my decision, had not worked to put me in my priest’s office, had not said something to my heart that was beyond words… I would not be in this particular vocation today. I would not know you, and you would not know me. That was one of my moments hearing the voice of the shepherd, and I have every confidence that you have had your moments as well.
One last word for our young people whose vocation is still taking shape and whose future is filled with possibility. Do not close your hearts to what amazing things God has in store for you. Listen to Him even if His calling is not what you would expect. It will be a proud and happy day for me when one of you makes solemn vows as a monk or nun, just as it will be a proud and happy day for me when one of you is ordained and becomes my brother priest, just as it will be a proud and happy day when one of you tells me of your happiness and peace as a single person, just as it will be a proud and happy day when one of you comes before this altar to make your wedding vows. These are all good things, and God will call you to them.
And now some parish business…
A rosary will be live streamed on Thursdays at 3:00pm during the month of May. You can find the live stream on our parish Facebook page.
The suspension of public Masses has been extended to May 29. It is hoped that we will resume public liturgies on May 30/31 for Pentecost, but nothing is certain until it is certain. We are waiting for more information from the Diocese regarding what type of safety and social distancing measures we will need to implement.
There will be a food collection for the school families of the inner city school of
St Thomas Aquinas on Sunday, May 17. Drop off will only be at the Church/School back doors from 1:00pm-3:00pm. There will large bins for you to place your bagged donations as you drive by. Please be as generous as you can be for those families in need with the following items: peanut butter, saltine crackers, Pasta and pasta sauce, Pop tarts or nutrigrain bars, snack items, items you just add hot water to like macaroni and cheese, canned foods and soups, dish soap, laundry detergent, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, toiletries and feminine hygiene products
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Homilies are meant to be heard, not read… and part of the Eucharistic liturgy, not words that stand alone. Please remember that no homily is written with this blog in mind.