On this Sunday we have the gospel of the Good Shepherd, and the Catholic Church often turns its thoughts to vocations. All of us have a vocation. We are called to holiness. This is our commissioning through our baptism. Now, I sometimes think that I have only to use the word ‘holiness’ for people to run a mile. Holiness is associated either with ‘holier than thou’ on the one hand, or with impossibly high standards of conduct on the other. Well, let’s think about it from another angle. In Galatians 5.22-23 St Paul gives us a list of the fruits of the Spirit, which grow out of our life in Christ. These are love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Which of us would not want these for ourselves? And this is holiness, in everyday terms that we can understand. Moreover, it is a holiness within which our other vocations can make sense. If you are a husband or wife or parent, you would want these gifts to help you in those roles. If you are a teacher or a social worker or in almost any other public employment, you would want these things. Holiness is inseparable from our daily living.
Even so, holiness is not an achievement. Rather, it is a gift made possible by God’s grace. As we come to God in prayer, the sacraments, in acts of kindness or generosity to neighbour, so God’s grace flows more freely within us. As we co-operate with that grace, we are slowly being set free to love God and neighbour. Love enables love. Generosity enables generosity. This is holiness at the very core of our being.
You can see, however, that this shared universal vocation draws strength from other, very specific vocations. The vocation to the vowed life as a religious sister or nun puts women in positions where their whole way of life can be an inspiration to others. Vocation to being a deacon enables a married man to continue in secular employment while being authorised to preach at Mass, as well as to baptise and take weddings and funerals. The vocation to the priesthood carries with it the privilege of bringing the bread of life, and sharing with your people moments of joy and moments of sorrow. These vocations ask a sacrifice, but they also bring with them a blessing. In our present culture there are still men and women who are asking, deep in their hearts, if such a vocation might be for them. In the present age of scepticism it can be difficult for someone considering a vocation to share their thoughts with others. Let us be sure that we give every support and encouragement to anyone who has the courage to step forward and put themselves at the full-time service of Christ and the Christian community.
May all of us, whatever our walk of life, draw strength from Christ’s courage, and in that strength go out cheerfully into the world seeking to bring the life and love of God made visible in Christ into our daily living.