Two weeks ago at our seminary we held a Family Fest for vocations. This is part of a new initiative I have asked the Director of Vocations, Fr Joe Fitzgerald, to oversee that touches the lives of us all. I am happy to tell you it was a very inspiring and hopeful day. Over 600 persons came, family members of all ages from babies on up. My hope is that in this Jubilee Year all of us all will become more conscious of the need for priests for our Diocese and more committed to be one in daily prayer for vocations. We need to pray and encourage young men and women to be open to a call from God to be a priest, consecrated brother or sister. I accept my responsibility to pray for and encourage vocations. However my prayers and my words are not enough. We all have to pray for and encourage youth we know to be open to a call from God. We are all co-responsible.
Today’s Gospel offers us a picture of Jesus in a very concrete setting that struck me as a good example for us. At the beginning and at the end of Jesus’ journey toward Jerusalem he heals a blind man. But blindness can be other than physical. There is spiritual blindness and it can affect us all as it did so many of those who encountered Jesus on the way to his destiny. If we place ourselves in that crowd outside Jericho what do we see as happening? Bartimaeus hears it is Jesus and he knows of his fame. So he calls out, Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me! Now comes the drama. First Jesus’ own disciples tell Bartimaeus to keep quiet. He is interrupting the progress of their procession. It is the Lord who stops and listens. Ever accessible Jesus tells his followers: CALL HIM. Mark says, So they called him! Jesus is totally accessible. But he has to instruct his followers not to follow their own plans but to join him in calling the blind man. NOW they get the hint and now they say,, Take courage; get up Jesus is calling you! And the blind man? He wants only to see and his faith saves him. But, once called, whom did he see? Jesus! Mark concludes: And he followed HIM on the way. Bartimaeus becomes one of Jesus’ own and, the early Church kept his name known because he served the Church for the rest of his life.
My friends, today I am asking us all to respond to Jesus’ words; CALL HIM. How many young and middle aged men do you know who might be trying to see Jesus and need some encouragement, a word of support, a prayer for his future? How many young women and men would like to follow the Lord as a sister or a brother? Yet they cannot get there on their own. They need our encouragement. They deserve our prayers. And that is what I am asking of all of you: Please join me and my brother priests in daily prayer for vocations and make your own what I say to young people before every confirmation: “If you think the Lord is calling you to be a priest or a religious, be open to it. Be open to exploring if God is calling you.” And support them if they are willing to ask the Lord to let them see if He is indeed calling them to serve this beautiful and holy local Church, the Diocese of Rockville Centre.
Some may think it is too demanding. It is demanding but it is worth it. Some may think that they do not want their child or grandchild not to be married. There is no more beautiful sacrament than marriage but priesthood and religious life offer riches beyond telling, gifts that satisfy the heart and make life as valued as any other life ever is.
Jesus, our High priest, became one with us so that, as a Priest, he might know the weakness and the strength of our human condition. He heals our weaknesses. He strengthens the human condition with his love and with the sacrament of holy orders of all whom he calls. The second reading says it all: Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin. No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God as Aaron was!
St John Paul II wrote to us priests twenty years ago and told us, there never will be sufficient priests for the preaching of the Word of God and the pastoral care of the People of God. My dear friends, in this Diocese we are blessed by good and holy priests, taken from among our families, our parishes; and we have many others who have generously come from other countries because our need is great. I pray every day for our priests, for our seminarians and for religious brothers and sisters. With you I want the best for this Church we all love.
Today I ask you all to join my brother priests and me to pray the Lord of the Harvest to send laborers into the harvest for the Harvest is plenty and the laborers few. Help our youth be like Bartimaeus and with their eyes on Jesus follow him along the way of priestly service to you, the members of the Body of Christ for whom Christ came not to be served but to serve and offer his life as a ransom for many.