Sunday, January 23, 2011

Fishers of the Fishers of Men

Homily from the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year A

Click here to watch "Fishers of Men."
Video will take a couple minutes to download.
One day, very shortly after I arrived here at St. Vincent’s, one of our pastoral associates, Dorothy Schuerman, stopped by my office and said, “Father, we need to schedule a vocations committee meeting.” “Great,” I said, “when do you want to have it?” Dorothy responded, “When do you want to have it? You’re the chairman of the vocations committee.”

So we scheduled and convened a meeting and had some good discussion and planned a few things. One of the things the vocations committee has done, through the help of the Knights of Columbus, is supply me with a few hundred bookmarks to hand out to young men who express interest in the priesthood.

On the back of the bookmark are the words of Jesus that we hear in today’s Gospel, “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men.”

On the front of the bookmark is nothing. It’s completely blank. It’s just a plain, white bookmark.

That’s because the bookmark is my clerical collar. When a young man tells me he’s thought about or is thinking about the priesthood, I pull this tab from my collar and hand it to him. “Here,” I say, “this is a bookmark for you. And if God is indeed calling you to the priesthood, this can stop being a bookmark and can be your clerical collar.”

Their eyes light up when they get the collar. Some will press it up under their own collar to see what they would look like as a priest.

All of us need to help the young men in our parish see what they would look like as a priest. Helping a young man consider and discern the priesthood is not just the job of your parish priest. And it isn’t the job of a few people on the Vocations Committee. It’s the job of all of us. All of us are on our parish’s Vocations Committee.

The first seminary is your own home and parents are the first seminary professors and spiritual directors. Vocations are born in the homes of faithful Catholics. Now, this doesn’t mean parents have to have doctoral degrees in theology or be great spiritual masters in order for their sons to hear the call to priesthood. However, you do in fact teach the most fundamental building blocks of theology everyday.

The three most important theology lessons you teach your sons are the same first three lessons you taught them when they were babies: how to talk, how to eat, and how to clean up after themselves.

When they were babies, you looked your sons in the eyes and repeated again and again, “Mama… mama… Dada… dada.” You wanted them to know you; to say your name out loud. And what a joy it was when they said it for the very first time, right? You taught them how to talk to their mother and father. Teach them how to talk to their Father in Heaven. Give thanks to God before meals. Say prayers before going to bed. Bless them as they leave the house for the day.

When they were babies, you sat your sons in their high chairs and spooned pureed peas and carrots into their mouths. You wanted them to grow up and grow strong. You taught them how to eat. Teach them to eat the Eucharist. Without Jesus, the Bread of Life, we cannot grow up or grow strong. Make sure they are going to Mass each and every Sunday.

And as they grew a little bit older, you taught your sons how to clean up, how to brush their hair and teeth; how to put away their toys and make their beds. You taught them how to clean up after themselves. Teach them to clean up after themselves by bringing them to Confession. And, when you are there to pick them up and brush them off after they’ve fallen down; when you bandage scrapes and bumps and bruises, and when you show forgiveness for hearts that are sorry, they will know more readily the importance of going to see Jesus in the confessional when the soul is in need of repair.

These are the three most important things a man needs to know in order to discern a vocation to the priesthood: how to talk, how to eat, how to clean up – prayer, the Eucharist and frequent Confession. You see… you parents are the first seminary professors and spiritual directors.

But this is not the task of parents alone. As I said, every single one of us is on the Vocations Committee. Today’s Gospel is not just for those who are being called by Jesus, it’s also for all of us who help young men hear the voice of Jesus. You and I repeat Jesus’ words, “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men” when we say to a young man, “Have you ever thought about being a priest?”

Think about this for a moment… and let this idea burn itself into your mind… you might be the very instrument Jesus is trying to use to call a young man to the priesthood. You are the fishers of the fishers of men.

A couple of years ago, the US Bishops put together a very powerful video about priestly vocations called “Fishers of Men.” This video will be shown in our gathering space immediately following this Mass and I strongly encourage you, our parish Vocations Committee, to watch it. You will enjoy this video and you will be touched by it. And it will help you in your vocation as a fisher of the fishers of men.

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