“The Prophet Elias” (detail) by Daniele da Volterra

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

Each and every one of us has a hunger and thirst for God deep within our very being. God, himself, placed that desire for Him there. He has made us for Himself. Whether or not we realize it, God alone can satisfy our every need and desire.

You see, He called each of us into being and into a life with Him.  In this world, He invites us to a life of grace where we will come to know Him more fully, to love Him more deeply and to share that love with others. And when this life on earth comes to an end, He desires us to spend all eternity in communion with Him in the life to come, sharing in His beatitude and glory forever and ever!! Amen!?  Amen.

This is the very dignity of the human person that we were made for such a glorious supernatural end. We all share in this vocational calling to holiness and heaven.

Some people, not the many but the few, are invited by God to live out this calling in a particular way as priests or religious, serving the Kingdom of God in humility and with a servant’s heart, not with pride and power. In speaking about certain Scribes and Pharisees, Jesus makes this clear in today’s Gospel that those called to ministry as priests or religious must be formed in great humility and be willing to embrace sacrifice for the good of those they serve.

Some among us have been called to be secular priests like Msgr. Peter and Fr. Brian. Others have been called to be religious order priests such as our patron, St. Peter Chanel who was a Marist priest.

Some have been called to the religious life as nuns or sisters, monks or brothers. One example from our own parish is Sister Marie Andre, a Carmelite Sister of the Most Sacred Heart in Los Angeles, who some of you will remember as Karen Petit.

In our second reading today from the First Epistle to the Thessalonians, St. Paul rejoices in the word of God that is at work in those in the Church at Thessalonica who believe. God’s grace has been poured out on them in a powerful way through the ministry of St. Paul, Silvanus, Timothy and others God called to minister to His people.

In hearing this epistle proclaimed, we can witness today, even across the ages of time, the love and affection that Paul felt from these Christians entrusted to his care and ministry. His love and care for these people was so deep and real that he could rejoice even in sharing their afflictions for their sake. For they were his spiritual family and he loved them deeply.

This is the way of life that God has called people like Msgr. Peter, Fr. Brian and Sister Marie Andrew to follow for the sake of the Kingdom… for our sakes. And make no mistake, it is love of God and love of each of you that motivates and inspires them each day.

St. Paul gives thanks to Almighty God for the power of God’s word at work in those who believe. Likewise, you and I should join in Paul’s gratitude for the good work and sacrifice of God’s priests and religious.

We have been blessed in Atlanta and particularly at St. Peter Chanel with priests who genuinely love the people they serve. I know many of you have examples of your own and I encourage you to let our priests know how much you are grateful for them.

But I would also encourage you to present the priesthood and religious life to your families and those around you as an honorable calling, essential to the life of the family of God. The Church is in need of these vocations.

This week is Vocations Awareness Week. While the Church continues to grow in the U.S., we have 20,000 fewer priests compared to 50 years ago. When I was school age, we had religious sisters and brothers to staff all our Catholic schools and hospitals. That is far from the case today.

Vocations begin in the home where our young are first introduced to the Risen Jesus and first knowingly experience the love of God. So, it is important for parents to model the life of Christ in actions that match what they teach. It is important that parents hold up vocations to the priesthood and religious life as something they value so that their children will value them too.

But all of us are responsible for praying for vocations. Our need for more priests and religious is urgent and critical; therefore our prayer should be urgent, persistent, faithful and expectant. These prayers should also be for those who have responded to God’s call and are now in seminary and formation and that their numbers increase. Msgr. Rau asks that we pray for these intentions in an urgent way for the entire month of November, particularly during Holy Hours before the Blessed Sacrament at Adoration, but throughout the day as well.

Some hearing these words today are now being called by God. Have you considered the priesthood or the religious life? Will you allow God to speak to you? In faith and trust will you allow the still, small voice of God reach you through the noise of our day? No one loves and understands you like God, Who called you into life and sustains your every breath. We need you to say yes. Pray for humility and direction… and courage in the name of His Son, Our Lord Jesus, Amen.

Into the deep…

This is my homily for the Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) to mark Vocations Awareness Week — Malachi 1:14–2:2, 8-10; Psalms 131:1, 2, 3; First Thessalonians 2:7-9, 13; Matthew 23:1-12.

Into the Deep by Deacon Mike Bickerstaff is a regular feature of the The Integrated Catholic Life™.

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