This past week I came across this statement from a Nathan Schaeffer that I think it’s worth sharing with you:
At the close of life, the question will not be, "How much have you gotten?" but "How much have you given?" Not "How much have you won?" but "How much have you done?" Not "How much have you saved?" but "How much have you sacrificed?" It will be "How much have you loved and served," not "How much were you honored?"
This evening we hear about Jesus sending his seventy-two disciples out to the towns as if sending laborers to an abundant harvest. Jesus’ ministry is now being extended through the disciples whom he sends forth to do his work and thus announces that “the kingdom of God is at hand.” The tremendous work of the too few laborers was to announce the kingdom of God by extending peace, curing the sick, subjecting demons. When the disciples return reporting the successes of their labors. Jesus reveals that the real abundance of the harvest is in having “their names...written in heaven.” Jesus redirects the focus of the disciples from power over evil to the glory of dwelling in the kingdom. What a surprise for them and for us! We disciples can never lose sight that we always minister with two hands: one hand is our selves, the other is God! Our ministry is about making present God’s reign, and the success is due to God’s giving us the power to do a wondrous thing: have our “names...written in heaven.”
My brothers and sisters I have quite a challenge for you today as we hear about the words this evening, “the harvest is abundant but the laborers are few.” We have to come to realization in our Church that this is a reality. First of all we need to look at the laity that we depend on so much when it comes to ministry. You my dear brothers and sisters who are lectors, eucharistic ministers, ushers, greeters, educators, music ministers, volunteers, etc. do so much in building the kingdom of God and I as a priest depend so much on you to assist me in working the vineyard but we need more of you to step up to the plate because the harvest is abundant and we do need more laborers because especially in our world today there is such a need for people to be ministered too. They need to feel the hand of Jesus and my brothers and sisters we should be that hand that reaches out to them in time of trial. The other area we need to look at are religious vocations. Let’s face it my brothers and sisters the clergy are getting older and there aren’t many newly ordained priests like myself around. Just in the Diocese of New Hampshire which has a Catholic population of 313,232 only had one man ordained for the priesthood for the Diocese. Nationwide there were 475 men who were ordained to the priesthood this year if you spread that out among the 50 states that comes out to about 9 priests per state. In my own province, a report just came out on the state of our presence in parishes that we staff. Of all the 46 priests that minister in parishes, 11 of those are under the age of 50 and 14 of them are in their 50’s. So just imagine what it will look like for my province in about 20 plus years when the guys in their 50’s are ready to retire. My brothers and sisters I just don’t want to throw out figures to you or become saddened by this information but we must take it seriously and try to do something about it now. It’s not only for the Pope or bishops to try to figure it out but it’s also our task to encourage vocations.
My brothers and sisters looking around at our young people have we ever asked someone who we believe that seems to have a religious vocation to ask, “Have you though of being a sister? a brother? a priest?” Have we even encouraged those that have made this intention know help them discern in their vocation.
Many of you know Fr. Tom who was stationed here at St. Thomas and he says that we don’t have a vocation crises what we have a crisis is in Vocation awareness. God is still calling laborers but are the laborers listening are they taking to the plow?
How many times do I hear about young people who are considering a religious vocation and their parents are discouraging them because they want to see them married, have children and a successful careers. Bishop McCormick who ordained me to the priesthood this last May said something in his homily that I will never forget. He said, “It is a joy for parents to see that their sons are doing will make them happy.” My brothers and sisters of you who are parents know that you might not agree with a life that your son or daughter has decided to follow but when you see their happiness, you share in that joy because what parent doesn’t want to see their children happy?
Pope John Paul II in his letter to youth to prepare them for the World Youth Day in Cologne which the Lord called him back home earlier that year said, “Listening to Christ and worshipping Him leads us to make courageous choices, to take what are sometimes heroic decisions. Jesus is demanding, because He wishes our genuine happiness. He calls some to give up everything to follow Him in the priestly or consecrated life. Those who hear this invitation must not be afraid to say "yes" and to generously set about following Him as His disciples. But in addition to vocations to special forms of consecration there is also the specific vocation of all baptized Christians: that is also a vocation to that "high standard" of ordinary Christian living which is expressed in holiness (cf Novo Millennio Ineunte
, 31). When we meet Christ and accept His Gospel, life changes and we are driven to communicate our experience to others.
My dear brothers and sisters, we are called to minister to one another in different capacities even those that feel that God is calling them to minister in the church as priest or consecrated religious. Let us never discourage but encourage our young people to accept such a great calling to follow him as a priest or consecrated religious. As Bishop McCormick told myself and Fr. Andy who was ordained day as well, “Always trust in the Lord’s Word and care. Be a sign to the community and to the world. Entrust your lives to the Lord, to His Word, His life and His love.’
Living Liturgy, p. 168