April 26, 2015 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause
April 26, 2015
Fr. George Smiga
Some of you may remember that this last February a young 26-year-old American woman was killed while being held captive by the Islamic State. Her name was Kayla Mueller, and she was in Syria providing humanitarian aid to the refuges of the Syrian crisis. What you might not know about Kayla is that the work she did was motivated by a deep religious conviction. She worked among the refuges because that is where she saw God. She wrote in a letter to her parents, “I find God in the suffering eyes reflected in mine. And so, dear Lord, if this is where you are revealed to me, this is where I will forever seek you.”
Working among the suffering people around her was what God was calling Kayla to do. It was her vocation. Christians have always believed that God calls each of us to a particular vocation, to a particular path in life. And here is the truth about vocations. When you find what God is calling you to do, when you find where, in Kayla’s words, “You can find God,” you will be happy. Kayla’s parents report that her letters from prison were remarkably positive and joyful. They were this way because her imprisonment flowed from her vocation, from who she was, and who she was called to be. Jesus reflects this kind of freedom in today’s Gospel. He says the he willingly, freely, lays down his life for his sheep. He can do this because he understands that his vocation is to be the shepherd, that God is calling him to care for the people that have been entrusted to him.
When we find our vocation, we will have freedom and joy. This is why it is so important for us to discern what God is calling us to do. If we base our life on how much money we can make, how much influence we can have, how much popularity we can accrue, we might in time be wealthy, powerful, and popular. But we might not be happy. This is why we should ask over and again, “What is God calling me to?” That answer can be different in our 20’s, in our 40’s, or in our 60’s.
God calls no one to everything. We cannot walk multiple paths at the same time. That is why it is important for each of us to find our own path and follow it. For some it will be a dedicated life of service as a single person. For many it will be the partnership of marriage, loving our spouse, our children, and our grandchildren. But we also believe that God is calling people to the priesthood and religious life as brothers and sisters. It is a priestly vocation that I discern as mine. I have no regrets in choosing it. Over the last forty years I have been blessed time and again by the people with whom I have worked and the people I have had the privileged to serve. The religious vocation is not as popular as it was fifty years ago. But the church still needs healthy and generous men and women to serve as priests, deacons, sisters, and brothers to bring about God’s Kingdom in our world.
So do not be influenced by people who say, “I could never be a priest or a brother or a sister.” They say this because it is not their vocation. The question is: “Is it yours?” If it is, follow it. It will provide you with the opportunity to lay down your life for something that is good. It will allow you to serve others. And, because it will be the place where you find God, it will make you happy.