Today is Good Shepherd Sunday and the gospel contains the line…”My sheep hear my voice, I know them and they know me.”
Many people have chosen to take the time to use this as a day to concentrate on vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and for religious life for women. But I’d like to take two steps further.
The first is that we can’t just leave our religion to the auspices of the priests. We all need to hear that same voice calling us to serve the people of God. How we choose to do that may be by becoming a priest or religious–which indeed is a good thing for those who are called to that life. But how do the vast majority of us hear God’s call working in our lives?
This weekend I attended the wedding of my dear friend Marc Adams and his lovely now-wife, Lexie in Washington, DC. These two people have lived their lives for others and have been a sign to all of us individually and now collectively as a couple of God’s deep love to the world. They met in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. The legend of the story was that Marc met her at a JVC retreat and that Lexie had gotten on a bus to head back to her community before Marc had the chance to pursue getting her phone number.
So he ran after the bus, shouting…”You’re the nicest person I have ever met! What’s your name again?”
It seems that Lexie heard Marc’s call. At the wedding Lexie stole the show by saying “I”d like to introduce you to my family. She then started with her parents and her sisters and brother and then she ended with the touching line:
“And this is my husband, Marc!”
And we heard that call loud and clear. Lexie had chosen Marc to be her own. More importantly, these two people offer themselves as gift to each other in love and in that love they are able to be gifts to the world.
Their pastor, Fr. Patrick Smith, at St Augustine’s Church, in Washington, DC reminded us of that and more importantly that Marc and Lexie need to remember that all of their love stems from God’s love for them. That they are not enough for one another even in all of their love that they so clearly have in marriage–they will need God who is the only one who gives us everything we will ever need.
I think there are many priests and more importantly many seminarians who need to hear that message. Too many seminarians place the idea of the priest as an “all too holy,” vocation. That their calling is somehow “better” than other callings that they could have chosen.
In truth, I think these men who act in this fashion, (dare I say) are probably not called to the priesthood at this time. In fact, before they can truly be called, they need to learn a bit of humility. Before they can hear that voice they need to hear the struggle of loving beyond boundaries, of choosing celibacy so that they can be truly free to give themselves to the world’s needs, of things not being about YOU.
I fear we have too many priests and seminarians who haven’t heard that call. The call of being an obscure shepherd–always chasing after love and not caring about one’s own ego.
And there are often too many married people who haven’t heard the call that Marc and Lexie have. The call to place our own needs behind those that we freely choose to love for a lifetime. I know I don’t always do that–and I need people like Marc and Lexie to remind me of that call.
“My sheep hear my voice…I know them and they know me.”
Do we let God really see us for who we are–without all of the pretentions? Can we offer all of ourselves to God in love and not in our own arrogance. Rather can we hear Jesus’ voice calling us to be Christ for others even if that means that we have to continually go running after love, after that sheep that nearly got away.
Can we run after God in the same way that Marc ran after Lexie –offering all of ourselves, being unafraid and even risking embarrassment?
Because that’s how the Good Shepherd runs after us.