The Supernatural Vocation

The Supernatural Vocation

Twenty-Eighth Sunday of the Year. Is 25:6-10a; Ps 23:1-6; Phil 4:12-14,19-20; Mt 22:1-10

Today is ‘Vocations Awareness Sunday’. Now the word ‘vocation’ has a very broad meaning today. People speak, for example, of a ‘vocation’ as some kind of work for which a person seems especially suited or qualified. The word ‘vocation’ also retains a sense of being work intended for the benefit of others as well as oneself. Medical, care giving, charitable, teaching, policing and certain kinds of legal and political work are, for example, sometimes described as vocational.

All these modern senses of the word ‘vocation’ are, however, derived ultimately from a much more ancient and Catholic understanding. This Catholic understanding of the word ‘vocation’ comes from the Latin word ‘vocare’, meaning ‘to call’. In a broad sense, this ‘vocation’ is the universal and supernatural call from God described in today's readings, the invitation to the ‘Wedding Feast of the Lamb’. The First Reading says that the Lord of hosts will provide a ‘feast for all peoples’, that he will ‘destroy death’ and ‘wipe away the tears from every face’. The Responsorial Psalm speaks of a table being spread before us in the sight of our foes and of us dwelling in the house of the Lord forever. In the Second Reading, St. Paul speaks of God fully supplying whatever we need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. All these images described in Scripture are images of the Feast to which we also are invited, the Wedding Feast of Jesus Christ with the Church in Heaven.

As the Gospel parables tells us, however, not everyone responds to this call. Some ignore the invitation and simply go away to their farms and businesses, a problem that remains with us today. Jesus is not, of course, saying that farms and businesses are evil; no, we need the produce of the land, the goods of our factories and services of various kinds. But all farms and businesses will eventually come to an end, a lesson reinforced by the traumatic events of the past three weeks. If we live only to produce, to buy and to sell, then we will miss God's invitation, the very reason that he made us, namely to bring us as saints into the glory of Heaven. Some people, however, upon receiving the invitation, react in an even worse manner. They mistreat the servants sent to bring them the good news and sometimes kill them. This problem is also still with us today. Countless numbers of Christians, perhaps many millions, died as martyrs in the twentieth century, victims of brutal, technologically enhanced religious persecution.

Despite all these challenges a great many people still gather in the Church, good and bad alike. To those such as ourselves who do gather in the Church, the Gospel parable does, however, give us a further warning. Not everyone who enters the Church here on earth will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Despite Martin Luther's assertion that faith alone is enough for salvation, some of those who have faith are found to be lacking something when the king arrives. The king sees that one man is not dressed in a wedding garment and has him cast out of his hall into the outer darkness. The Fathers and Doctors of the Church interpret this lack of a wedding garment as a lack of charity, that is, supernatural love. Faith is not enough, unless it is completed by the divinely inspired love of God and our neighbor.

So the call to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb is the universal vocation of every Christian, and this calling should permeate every part of our lives. There are, however, other, more specialized senses of the word ‘vocation’. Some are called to follow the counsels of the Gospel - poverty, chastity and obedience - in religious life, bearing powerful witness that our true home as Christians is not in this world but in the Kingdom of Heaven. We in this parish are privileged to have the witness and work of women in consecrated religious life, the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Some men are also called to be the king's servants who invite and prepare others for the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. This is the work of bishops, priests and deacons - to follow Christ in teaching, leading and sanctifying his beloved people.

My dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, we are fortunate in Saint Louis to have experienced an increase in vocations for the priesthood in recent years. On this Vocations Awareness Sunday, please pray that God will call more to the priesthood and to the religious life. Please pray also that those who have been called will have the courage to surrender themselves fully to the will of God.

Father Andrew Pinsent, St Ambrose Church, St Louis, 11th October 2008

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