Perhaps the most frequent question I used to be asked was “Why did you decide to become a priest?” I knew the story, and answer, like the back of my hand: To share with others what I, myself, had received from God.
In more recent weeks, I’ve wondered whether the bigger question is “Why did the priesthood choose me?” Perhaps the choosing was more mutual than I realised at the time.
In a continuing challenge, the sense of being called and responding with my “yes” stands as a testament to being called forth into a way of life by God. The name itself – vocation – is explicit in saying this: vocation comes from vocare, meaning “to call”.
Jeremiah seems to suggest this in the first reading this Sunday: He feels “seduced” into his ministry by God. While the challenges he faced in his ministry certainly give him reason to say “no” to God, he could not help continuing despite the difficulties. The romance and honeymoon of his calling from God where not devoid of the subsequent reality of a life of service—where life brushes up against the humanness of others.
We are called in different way and to different things. Some callings are less necessary, yet not unimportant i.e. interests and hobbies – things we carve out time for, which fulfil us and give us mental rest. Some callings come from necessity i.e. our jobs, no doubt a big part of our week, but possibly not always loved (though not always hated either). Job or no job, we all have vocations – larger trajectories which are often a source of meaning in our lives. We speak of four types of vocations in the church: single, religious, married, priesthood. It is not uncommon nowadays to even hear of people of no faith, speak of their vocation – meaningful commitments they have made. Above all this sits our faith. This too in a sense chose us. The Church, through our parents, drew us to itself, its faith, its God. Our faith forms our outlook on the world. Where is your faith drawing you at this time in your life—or is it business as usual?
Where are your own interests and hobbies, drawing you? I have heard one definition of ministry as “when a gift touches a need”. How are you ministering as a Christian? Have your interests and hobbies – the things that you’d happily waste time for – identified for you the gaps or perhaps opportunities in the parish’s service to the Coast and Hinterland? Which interests would you happily “waste time with” while allowing it to touch the needs of others?
Our calling begins with where we feel drawn, even if it is spooky, even if the calling feels like a nagging voice that refuses to leave us alone. If what you heard in the strategic plan was only a burden, then perhaps we have failed to communicate a compelling path forward. Jeremiah felt seduced and he could not resist returning to his ministry, despite its demands. This is perhaps the criteria of whether each of us are in the right place in this parish. Are you and your gifts drawn to an area, despite the cost? I pray the Lord wins your heart and mine, again and again, until we have given in.
While I am on the topic of vocation, I warmly wish all the Fathers and Father figures in our parish a very Happy Fathers Day. I (imagine?) that the vision and seduction of married and family life opened into a life which makes its demands. Nonetheless you turn up everyday to that life of service. Ours is not the easiest age to be a Priest or Father where roles and expectations seem to have changed especially within the last sixty years. That has been a curse for some, but it has also been a blessing in that Priests/Fathers have had freedom to be creative with their vocation. I commend you all for doing Fatherhood in your unique ways!
I’d like to thank the Sacramental Program Team – Julie, Sarah, Justine and Bruce. The team has been generous with their time and energy in preparing the children for their Sacrament of First Holy Communion. Despite their other commitments, they made a gift of their faith to our kids. I also thank Kelli Phillips for being available to lean on for guidance as I stepped into her role. Kelli shared with the team many resources which she had prepared and organised for easy access!