This past year Bishop Rhoades named me as assistant vocation director for the diocese. This past week I was asked, in that role, to offer Mass at Marian and St. Joe High Schools. The theme for this homily was vocations. I ask everyone reading this blog to pray for vocations.
Vocations day homily:
Today we are having our annual vocations day. You know that this means that we are here to talk to you about religious vocations: the vocation to be a priest, brother, or sister. This is true! We are here to talk to you about these things. But, I want to give you a little bit of context. The religious vocation does not come out of nowhere.
What does the word vocation mean? It comes from the Latin Vocare, which means "to call." A vocation then is one's calling. Who is doing the calling? What are we talking about here? We are talking about God. He is calling you to something. God has a plan for each and every single one of us: holiness. This is the universal vocation. No matter what you might think God is calling you to be, you are most certainly called to be holy. But, Holy is one of those words that everyone knows what it means until I make you give me a definition. It is hard to pin down. What is holy?
The Biblical concept of holy always relates to God. Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God of hosts. So holiness is something that pertains to God. What things were called holy in the Old Testament? The temple was called holy. Why? God dwelt there. The vessels were called holy. Why? Because they were set aside for the God's use. The same is true today. As you all know I'm the associate pastor at St. Matthew's Cathedral. How many of you have ever been in that Cathedral? So most of you know that it is a pretty big space, what would you think if the next time you walked in that Cathedral if I decided play baseball in that Church? You would instantly know that I shouldn't be doing that. Why? Because God lives there in the tabernacle. The Church is a holy place. What about sacred vessels? What if you walked into the rectory where I live and you saw me drinking my morning coffee out of a sacred chalice? Wouldn't that be offensive? Why? That chalice has been set aside and is only to be used for sacred things.
Apply these two concepts of holiness to ourselves. God lives inside each one of us. This is our theology. We believe that on the day of our baptism, the Trinity began to live within us. God dwells in us. Also, we believe that on the day of our baptism we were consecrated, set aside for the service of God. This is very important. How often do we live like God is living inside of us? Yet, how easy is it for us to fall into sins of gossip, bad language, impurity, being uncharitable toward others? What about service? We were set aside for service of God. Yet, when we do our own thing, ignore our neighbors, and skip Mass we are not doing this service. Whenever we think about holiness this should be the first thing we think of. We are holy because God dwells within us and we were set aside for the service of God and our neighbor.
Now some of you might be thinking: Great! I never signed up for that. I mean, isn't it a drag to have been made holy? Now I have to go around being holy. The answer, of course, is no. Holiness is the pathway to happiness. Who made us? God. Why did God make us? To know, love, and serve him in this life so as to be happy with him forever in the life to come. God made us, and he made us to be happy. Think of holiness as the instruction booklet of the human person. If I want to be happy, if I want to do what I was created to do, I have to live up to this holiness. What would happen if I bought a blu-ray player but instead of putting the disks in the slot I jam bananas in there? It wouldn't work. The same is true for us when we sin. When we sin we are violating the very fabric of our being, we are ignoring the instruction manual for happiness.
So what is the key here? First, dwell with God. God lives within you. Get to know God. Speak to him often. Develop a prayer life. Get to know Jesus. Spend time with him in the Blessed Sacrament. If being holy means that God is living within you, you need to establish a relationship with him. Second, serve God. We do this first and foremost by our worship. Whenever we gather to pray at the Mass we are offering perfect worship. That's why we need to go to Mass every Sunday. The Church tells us to go to Mass on Sunday's because it is good for us! It leads to happiness.
These are the ways in which you live out your call to holiness. The more you do this, the more you will be able to then look and see exactly how this calling to holiness will be lived out in your particular circumstance. As I said, holiness is the universal vocation. Marriage and celibate priesthood or religious life are the specific vocations. Every single one of you is called to the universal vocation, and every single one of you is called to a specific vocation. But, you will never be able to figure out your specific vocation unless you are living the universal vocation.
When I was discerning a call to the priesthood, I found the greatest place to pray was at Mass. Every time I went to Mass, and when the priest held up the Eucharist, I prayed: God tell me what you want me to do with my life. Today as we celebrate this Holy Eucharist, let that be your prayer: God, tell me what you want me to do with my life. And, pray for the courage to follow the Lord.