Blessed Sacrament Parish
Amherstview, Ontario

Saint Linus
Bath, Ontario

Saint Bartholomew
Amherst Island, Ontario
Homilies from Fr. Americo Santos

Homily: Fourth Sunday of Easter

April 21, 2024 (by visiting priest Fr. Joe Lynch)

"I lay down my life of my own accord ... "

On this weekend, we are asked to pray in a particular way for vocations. And surely part of the purpose of our prayer is to encourage vocations to the priesthood, to the diaconate, and to religious life. But, if we focus our prayer exclusively on that limited understanding of vocation, we are, I think, being a little unfair to the meaning of the word. For the word vocation can apply to whatever we do. In fact, a job is made a vocation, by what it inspires us to do. And, if what inspires me to act is love, then whatever I do is a vocation.

A couple of Sundays ago, I noticed a young man come in to the church, following his two children. They were, I would guess, about five and three. All three walked up that aisle, almost to the front. Just before getting into the seat, the young father exercised that discretion which parents have used for centuries. He strategically placed himself so that the little fellow would enter the seat first, andthen the little girl would follow her father. (Keep them apart, there is less likelihood of trouble.) And, as he did this, he very quickly flipped the little guy's cap from his head and put it in the child's hand.

But, before the father could get into the pew and kneel down, the little fellow somehow managed to move behind his father and get beside his sister. He did this in a split second; and, in the process, he also managed to gethis cap back on hishead, with the peak facing backward. One is never too young to be in style.

So there they were - father, brother, sister. Score one for the kids! I looked at the father's face, and he seemed to have an expression which was a combination of,"How did that happen?" and"/ knew that that would happen." I imagine that it is not an exaggeration to say that those kinds of moments occur a dozen times every day, for every parent of young children - and of older ones too. And, you know, unless he saw what he was doing as a vocation, at some point he would get tired and give up. But he will not give up - because he loves.

"I lay down my life of my own accord ... "

That is the definition of vocation. Only ifwe see what we do as vocation, can we hope to avoid likely cynicism and certain despair. A priest is dealing with a young couple bent on making their wedding a social extravaganza. He is trying, for the umpteenth time in the season, to make clear that this is a sacred commitment and not a coming out ceremony. The spouse frustrated with a partner who simply does not get it, sticks with the marriage - and hopes. The parent of a teenager who is getting himself or herself in more and more trouble refuses to give up on his son or daughter. The religious Sister sees the work and vitality of her community diminish a·s numbers decline. If these people did not see their lives as vocation, they would have every reason to walk away - or run.

That kind of commitment is never an argument for anyone to tolerate abuse or inappropriate behaviour of any type. But it is an acknowledgement that, at the more difficult moments in life, sometimes the reason that we continue to do what we do is because we believe that we have been called to do it. And the response to that call is not easily or quickly dismissed. The struggling priest, the frustrated spouse, the worried parent, the lonely Sister, their story is repeated every day in home, office, workplace, school, community room. Why?

"I lay down my life of my own accord ... "

Perhaps, among the things that we do at this Mass, is commit ourselves to encourage those around us whom we see trying their best to fulfil their vocation - priest, parent, spouse, deacon, sister, single person - sometimes well, maybe sometimes not so well - but trying. It helps to know that somebody cares. It helps to know that somebody sees.

And, one more thing, something brought home to me one morning this past week. I watched a young mother going down the street. She had hold of the hand of a little girl of about four, and seated in the wagon that she was pulling was her younger brother. He seemed to be extremely quiet as he was being pulled along, and it was only as they came right abreast of me that I realized why the little guy was so quiet and so still. He was seated perfectly upright in the wagon, facing the back, sound asleep. He had full - if unconscious - trust in the shepherd.

At some moments we are the ones in the wagon asleep. At others, we are the ones pulling the wagon; we are the shepherd. We are, in effect, living a vocation, if we pull the wagon - whatever wagon - with love, if we say, in effect ...

"I lay down my life of my own accord ... "