Say ‘yes’ to the Lord and have conviction behind it

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily Oct. 11 for Vocations Awareness Sunday.

Given today’s readings, today has been designated Vocations Awareness Sunday and so it is a good opportunity to share with you some of my excitement about the priesthood, religious life and the other ministries in the Church.

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells the rich young man: In addition to keeping the commandments, “there is one more thing you must do. Go and sell what you have and give to the poor; you will then have treasure in heaven. After that, come and follow me.” The young man went away sad because that was more than he was willing to do.

But if young men could also see the joy of priesthood and how far that joy exceeds the challenges, we would be flooded with applicants.

I have known a number of people like him, men who may have been called to be priests, but who for whatever reason did not respond — including some who carry a feeling of having missed their calling for the rest of their life. Usually they end up serving Christ in another way.

I myself experienced Jesus’ call in my life, and I have tried to respond to it as fully and faithfully as I can. For me this call was a gradual thing and the story begins in childhood and is too long to recount here. But when I was in high school the Lord impressed upon my heart quite vividly the truth that love was the only real answer to most of the problems in our world.

Because of my faith I became more involved in my parish and began praying more. I started doing things to help people — to put Jesus’ love in action. For instance, I tried to reach out to shy and unpopular fellow students, to make them feel accepted and help them feel good about themselves. I became very vocal about social and moral issues that were leading our country and my fellow students away from what Jesus would want — especially at that time issues like Civil Rights, the Vietnam War, ecology and immigration (even then!) and the sexual revolution and abortion, all things that destroy the human soul.

Gradually, through putting my faith into action, I realized that Jesus was drawing me to himself and asking me whether I was willing to be “all in.” And by my sophomore year at the University of Oklahoma, I was finally ready to say “yes.”

I entered seminary 41 years ago, and I can tell you with all my heart that saying “yes” to the Lord was the best decision I have ever made in my entire life. The rich young man in our Gospel went away sad; he still had his money, but he had nothing to live for, no real purpose in life. Following Christ has made my life a really exciting adventure. I can look back over year after year filled with beautiful, touching moments and some sad but powerful moments — the Oklahoma City bombing, I had two of those funerals.

The joy of helping bring a couple back from the brink of divorce, only to discover that Christ had used me to help them fall more deeply back in love than they had been the day they were married. No doctor can heal the hurts that Jesus has healed through me — I have seen grown men weep as the burden of guilt of many regrets is lifted off heaving shoulders in forgiveness. I have visited families that long ago had strayed from the Church and then felt the thrill of seeing them begin to come to Mass again.

I sometimes think that if word ever got out about this side of the priesthood — and I don’t deny that there are also many challenges, after all, Jesus did say, “Take up your cross and follow me.” But if young men could also see the joy of priesthood and how far that joy exceeds the challenges, we would be flooded with applicants. We wouldn’t just have 44 seminarians, we’d have 144.

The rich young man felt a stirring in his heart when he heard Jesus’ invitation to leave everything and follow him, but he said “No” and went away sad. Do you feel a stirring in your heart? Can you see that love is the solution to most of the problems in our world? And that Jesus is the source of that love?

The Lord has a specific role for each of us in his plan. For some it is a call to a religious vocation. For most of you it is marriage and parenting and a call to bring the Good News to others in your secular employment. Is it more than you are willing to do? How complete is your “Yes” to the Lord? How well do you know him? Where are you still saying “No”?

Learn from the rich young man. There’s no reason for you to go away sad too.

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