Sunday, July 16, 2006


(15th Sunday in Ordinary Time-Year B;This homily was given 16 July, 2006, at Our Lady of Mercy, East Greenwich, R.I. and Ss. John & Paul, Coventry, R.I.; read Amos 7:12-15, Ephesians 1:3-10 and Mark 6:7-13)

One of the main themes of the readings for this weekend is that of vocation. In our first reading Amos is called by God to prophesy to the people of Israel; in the Gospel Christ calls the 12 Apostles to Himself, gives them His own authority, and sends them out. These were special people who were given a specific vocation, a specific call from God.

But it is St. Paul who points out, in the second reading this morning, that we are all called; all of us have been chosen by God and given a vocation in this world. He says that:

God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him.
—Ephesians 1:4

It is the universal call to holiness (CCC, #825). We are called by God to live differently than those around us, to follow Him in holiness of life in the midst of the world we live in. This call—to be holy as God is holy—is at the heart of every vocation. Whether we are priests, religious or married, the call to holiness is one that continues to re-echo throughout our lives and in the midst of our own vocation.

But let’s be honest; it is not easy to hear that call in the world we live in. There are so many distractions, so many things that pull us in a hundred different directions. In a culture so filled with images, voices and distractions, it can be very difficult indeed to hear God’s voice and answer His call to holiness.

A friend of mine is a priest who takes the call of God very serious in his life. Every year he goes to a different Benedictine monastery for retreat; a chance to get away and be alone with God. One year he arrived at the monastery and there was a businessman there on retreat who was—for all intents and purposes—married to his cell phone.

He carried it with him everywhere, and he answered it whenever and wherever it would ring. It went off in the chapel, and he would go outside and talk. It went off in the refectory, and he would stop eating to answer it. He walked up and down the corridors of that monastery, constantly talking on the phone.

Finally, my friend found a small balcony on the second floor. He went out there and realized it was the quietest place in the monastery. Unfortunately, it also had the best reception! Sure enough, out came cell phone man, yapping away! It was at that moment that my friend began to realize that God was trying to speak to him through that man on the cell phone; and it was crystal clear exactly what God was trying to say.

He went back into the monastery, and into the chapel, and he prayed:

“Almighty God, make me that open to Your call in my life. As open as this man, who cannot go 5 minutes without talking to this person on the other end, and listening to what they have to say. Make me that open to Your call and Your voice in my life.”

When is the last time that God called us and spoke to us in the midst of our own vocation? What are the things that keep us from hearing God’s call to live a holy life in Him?

I would suggest three things this morning that can help keep the lines of communication open between God and us, ways that we can focus more completely on that call to holiness as it re-echoes in our own particular vocation each day.

Firstly, we need to be people of prayer. God can reach us on the cell phone, our home computer, or through an ipod if He wants to; but He prefers to talk to us through the spiritual discipline of prayer. Do we set aside a specific time each day in which He can do that? It doesn’t necessarily have to be a long time, but there should at least be some time each day that we are quiet and alone with God.

Secondly, we need the sacramental life of the Church. God wants to sanctify us—to make us holy—through the grace of the sacraments He has given to the Church. We have been given the very Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist to sustain us and help us remain close to God. We have the grace of reconciliation when we are in need of forgiveness; the chance to begin again with Christ in freedom and joy. Might we take God up on these opportunities and draw closer to Him through the sacramental life of the Church.

And finally, we can answer God’s call to holiness most completely when we allow God to do whatever He wants to do in our lives. There is a great story about a bishop who was ordained in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. He was in the procession leading out, and suddenly a little nun came towards him, shaking her finger at him.

Normally you don’t stop in the procession at St. Peter’s; especially not since the Pope is the one at the end of that procession! But this bishop did stop, because the nun shaking her finger at him was Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Suddenly he heard her say to him (finger still shaking): “Give God permission to do what He wants in your life.”

He had absolutely no idea what she was talking about . . . until he went back to his diocese and began his ministry as a bishop, and realized how truly difficult it was to let go of his own desires, his own plan, his own will, and let God do what He wanted to do.

It’s not easy for any of us. But when we are willing to spend time with God each day in prayer, when we remain connected to Him through the sacramental life of the Church, and when we give Him permission to use us however He wants to, then our lives cease to be ordinary or mundane, or just a series of functions we perform or various hats we wear. We recognize instead that our lives truly are a vocation in the fullest sense of that word. We begin to live anew a fruitful vocation in the life of the Church and in the world around us.