Sunday the 5th Week of Easter
Acts 6:1-7, 1Pt 2:4-9, Jn 14:1-12
According to my Catholic calendar, today is the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. When I first read it I thought it said World Day of Prayer for Vacations! We’re all praying for an increase in vacations, right? But yeah, World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Definitely seems like a worthy thing to set aside a day of prayer for and make it world-wide. Vocations to the priesthood and religious life have certainly dwindled since the 1960s. So many Catholic schools have closed; so many churches have closed or merged. All for the lack of vocations that used to staff them. And the situation doesn’t seem like it will be getting better anytime soon. When you look at the demographics of priests in the US and Europe, they’re dying off or retiring much faster than new guys are replacing them. Our Lord said to his disciples, “The harvest is rich but the workers are few; therefore ask the harvest-master to send workers to his harvest” (Lk 10:2). It seems like Jesus’ words would have the same urgency today.
When we speak of “vocation” we often mean it in the narrow sense of the term, as in vocation to the priesthood or religious life. But in a broader sense, everyone has a vocation. Being a mother is a worthy vocation. Being a plumber is a worthy vocation. Whatever path we end up choosing in life, we need to do it in a way that gives glory to God. We need to do everything we can to further his kingdom.
The way I see it, there are two kingdoms engaged in a tug-of-war struggle for the possession of souls. There is the kingdom of God, made up of the Blessed Trinity and all the citizens of heaven – the good angels and the souls of the blessed who have reached heaven. They are doing everything they can to pull souls on earth in their direction so they can be happy with them forever. This is the kingdom of light, of goodness, of truth, of beauty, peace, and joy.
Then there is the kingdom of darkness, of evil, of ugliness, of deception, of eternal anger, hate, and bitterness. It is inhabited by Satan and the other fallen angels, as well as souls of human beings who refused to repent and be forgiven. The devil is the father of lies, and he and the other citizens of that kingdom are always trying to trick and cajole and coax earthlings into moving further and further toward their kingdom.
Misery likes company, and these miserable beings want to pull as many souls as they can down to hell with them. They are envious of us and of the potential we still have of being happy with God in heaven forever. They also hate God in the worst way. They know that to win one single soul to eternal perdition causes God an infinite amount of pain and sorrow. He loves each one of us so much . . . how could it be otherwise?
But you see, when he created us he included the risky ingredient of free will. Human beings on earth really are free to choose one kingdom or the other. God and his allies will do all they can to influence us, but they won’t violate our free will. Otherwise, it wouldn’t really be free will.
So we probably don’t realize it but there is an epic struggle going on around us for the final possession of souls. When we look around, it shouldn’t be very difficult to recognize the handiwork of the kingdom of darkness: child abuse, suicide, substance abuse, selfishness, greed, gender confusion. So many people don’t feel joyful or content or fulfilled or at peace. It seems like we are trying our best to pretend God doesn’t exist. The world has changed so much in the last 50 years.
Anyway, the vocation of each one of us, no matter what our station in life is, is to further the kingdom of heaven. We need to play our small but not insignificant role of winning souls for God. We need to first of all keep our souls clean and in the state of grace so that God can use us as more effective instruments in his work of winning souls. Without maybe even realizing it our efforts in this regard will have a ripple effect. I think it is safe to say that the main preoccupation of God is to save souls from eternal wretchedness. He really, really appreciates any work we do to further that effort.
We started out by talking about prayer for people with a vocation in the narrow sense. Not everyone has a vocation to the priesthood and religious life, but those who do have an uphill battle ahead of them. Satan knows that they are a real threat to his kingdom, and he and his thugs are going to be doing everything they can to take them out or at least shackle them. That’s why we all need to pray hard and counterbalance the efforts of the enemy camp.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph I love you; save souls.