There is a cartoon, which is going around on the internet these days, which shows Satan in a mock conversation with God about COVID 19. In the cartoon, Satan is boasting to God that because of the COVID 19 virus, he has succeeded in closing down all the churches of the world. In this cartoon, God responds, showing that He will always be victorious over Satan, by saying: “On the contrary, I have opened up a church in every home of the world.”
This Sunday, the Church celebrates the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. This is a day to pray that all of the baptized will hear God calling them and respond to His call. The word “vocation” itself comes from the Latin word “vocare,” which means “to call.” This word emphasizes the fact that each one of us is called to follow Christ through baptism. Every baptized person has received the Holy Spirit from God and is called to be a “temple of the Holy Spirit,” making Christ present in the world.
During the Easter Season, the first reading at the Sunday Mass is taken from the Acts of the Apostles. This Sunday’s first reading is taken from the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles and follows the Pentecost event at which the Holy Spirit was first poured down upon the Church. In this Sunday’s passage from Acts 2: 14a, 36-41, we see that as soon as the Holy Spirit was given to the Church, the disciples leave the upper room where they were hidden in fear, to go out and continue Christ’s saving work in the world. What the Acts of the Apostles is all about is how Christ’s work continues through the Church in the mission given to each baptized person. As people are baptized, they receive the Holy Spirit and are called to continue spreading Christ’s message throughout the world.
This is why the Mass is so important in the life of the Church. At the Mass, we hear God’s Word proclaimed, Christ speaks to us in the Gospel, and we receive His Body and Blood in the Eucharist so that we might be sent out into the world to continue His mission in those places that we are sent during the course of the week. The manner in which each one of us continues Christ’s work is often determined by our vocation. Some Christians are called to the single life and they continue Christ’s work by dedicating themselves to a particular work or charitable outreach. Others receive a call to the priesthood or religious life as a brother or sister and dedicate themselves to serving God through service to the Church. Many are called to marriage and serve the Lord by loving their families and building up the Church in their homes. The family is often called the “domestic church” and at this time when COVID 19 is requiring many of us to stay at home, it is important that we are confident that the Lord, whom the scriptures identify this Sunday as the “Good Shepherd,” is always with us in our homes.
On of the most beautiful images that St. Paul uses in his letters for the baptized Christian is that through baptism each one of us becomes a “temple of the Holy Spirit,” and as such we each have God dwelling in our hearts. This image reminds us of how intimately God desires to dwell within each of us and how much we are all loved by God. And while this image reminds us of God’s great love for us, it also speaks to us of our dignity as God’s children called to continue His work. Jesus calls each of us, just as He called His first disciples, to continue His work in the world. When Jesus comes to us in the Eucharist and other sacraments, He comes to show us His love for us, and to transform us into His likeness in order that we might continue His work in the world. Every single Christian is called to continue Christ’s work by responding to his or her baptismal call from Christ. Every Christian has a vocation.
Today, we often hear people lamenting the fact that God is not calling people anymore to a vocation to the priesthood, religious life as a nun or brother, to committed single life, or even to sacramental marriage. However, the truth is that God has never stopped calling people. The problem is that today people are distracted and have stopped listening to hear God’s call.
During this world shut down for COVID 19, it is time for all of us to stop and listen for God’s call and accept His invitation to eternal life through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. Perhaps something good can come from the fact that this shut down is happening during the Easter Season. During this time, when we are all forced to stop and listen, let each one of us ask how God is calling us to be members of His chosen people. What work is God calling each of us to do? It may be that He is calling us to reach out to a neighbor, change our behaviour, convert, get married, or follow Christ in a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. This is a great time for all of us to take a little extra time to listen to, embrace, or deepen in the vocation that God is calling each one of us to follow.
This Sunday is the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Because it is often difficult amongst the distractions of the world today to hear God calling, it is vital that we all pray for vocations so that all Christians will have their hearts open to hear God’s voice calling them. And just as it is important to pray for vocations, it is also important to encourage the young, and not-so-young, to consider a vocation to sacramental marriage, a call to religious life, priesthood, or even to living the single life in a more committed Christian manner. Please pray for vocations, encourage vocations, and dare to embrace your own vocation more boldly.
At the beginning of this reflection, I referred to a cartoon in which God was depicted as saying that as a result of the COVID 19 virus, He had opened a church in every home. The truth is, that as a result of baptism, Christ has made each one of us a “temple of the Holy Spirit.” Christ calls each one of us to be His disciple. We are called to continue His work by responding to His call to follow Him and be His holy people. Each one of us is called by Jesus, by name, to follow Him and make Him known wherever we are sent. This is the vocation given to each of us through baptism.
I would like to conclude with a prayer for vocations that was sent to all of the parishes of the Archdiocese by Alison Blackwell from the Office of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Toronto. I am very grateful to Ms. Blackwell, and the entire lay staff at the Office of Vocations, for the excellent work that they do to promote vocations. This prayer was written by Saint John Paul II and is as follows:
Lord Jesus, as you once called the first disciples to make them fishers of men,
let Your sweet invitation continue to resound: Come follow Me! Give young men
and women the grace of responding quickly to Your voice. Support our bishops,
priests, and consecrated people in their apostolic labour. Grant perseverance to
our seminarians and to all those who are carrying out the ideal of a life totally
consecrated to Your service. Awaken in our community a missionary eagerness.
Lord, send workers to Your harvest and do not allow humanity to be lost for the
lack of pastors, missionaries, and people dedicated to the cause of the Gospel.
Mary, Mother of the Church, the model of every vocation, help us to say “yes”
to the Lord who calls us to cooperate in the divine plan of salvation.
On this World Day of Prayer for Vocations, may we all hear the call we have received from Christ in baptism and dare to respond.
Fr. Michael McGourty,
Pastor—St. Peter’s Parish—Toronto.