RagazzaGallese: Emphases are my own
Bishop Mark Davies’ Homily during Mass at Invocation FACE2FACE, 12 October 2013
Homily at the Closing Mass for the Invocation Conference
St. Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham
12th October 2013
The Gospel we have just heard leaves a question: what happened to the nine people who came to a life-changing meeting with Christ, recognised him as “Master” but disappear never to be seen again? Our Lord Himself asks the question: “the other nine, where are they?” (Luke 17: 18). Where did they go? Why did they run from the face of Our Lord, so that only one “turned back,” St. Luke tells us “and threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him”? (Luke 17:17). Is it that they were afraid of what might be asked of them, afraid of their vocation? As they rushed away did they think they might one day return to respond to their calling but in reality they would never see His
face again. Pope Benedict XVI recognised this danger when he spoke directly to young people in London’s Hyde Park three years ago (some of you were there!) “Ask our Lord what he has in mind for you!” Pope Benedict said, “Ask him for the generosity to say “yes!” Do not be afraid to give yourself totally to Jesus. He will give you the grace you need to fulfil your vocation” (Hyde Park, 18th September 2010).
The youngest children in our schools often ask me the most direct questions: how old are you? How much are you paid? What car do you drive? Are you famous? [Me: Haha!] I sometimes see their faces express a clear view; this is not going to be the job for me: no big car, no big money, no big fame. However, they do invariably ask a question which cuts straight to the heart, a question no adult would ever ask so directly: “are you happy?” they ask. If my age, my pay and my car don’t impress I can tell them unequivocally that to answer God’s call is the greatest happiness. I wasn’t always so sure about this: when the idea of the Priesthood was first put to me I told my Parish Priest I really wasn’t sure. In reality I wasn’t sure where answering this calling would lead. I thought it was a clever answer, but my Parish Priest still convinced of my vocation arranged for me to see the bishop! We can so easily fear the cost of answering Christ’s call at any moment of our lives. St. Paul saw the paradox we face repeating a saying of the first generations of Christians: “If we have died with him, then we shall live with him. If we hold firm then we shall reign with him” (II Tim. 2: 11).
It is good then to remind ourselves of this at a moment when there is a crisis of vocation which is often a crisis of fear. It isn’t that young people are no longer called to give their lives in love for Christ in the priesthood, in marriage, in a consecrated life. It isn’t that a new generation lacks the generosity to respond to such a calling (I know the very reverse is true). However, many can be paralysed by a fearful indecision which leads them to ask whether such a commitment is ever possible for them. I know this is compounded by voices around you who say to you: delay, go somewhere else, do anything else, but do not respond to Christ’s call, at least not now! I would say to you this evening, the only way to know whether this is your vocation is to respond to the call – not in the distant future, not in some future life but now, today. It is, of course, true that part of your responding might involve waiting, preparing but already you will be answering His call.
Last week in Assisi this question was put directly by young people to Pope Francis: “sometimes we are attracted by the idea of the priesthood or of a consecrated life,” they told the Holy Father, “but immediately fear arises” they said (Meeting with the Young People of Umbria, 4th October 2013). Pope Francis understands this well and often refers, as he did in Rome again last week, to the danger of running away from Our Lord. “You can flee from God while being a Christian, being a Catholic” he said at the morning Mass on Monday, “being a priest, a bishop, a Pope everyone of us can flee from God … to not listen to God, to not listen to his voice …” (Mass of the Holy Father, 7th October 2013).
Pope Benedict spoke of what causes us to run from our calling, disappear as quickly as the nine St. Luke describes. It is the fear that allowing Christ into our lives, opening ourselves totally to Him means that He will take something precious away from us. “Be not afraid of Christ,” Pope Benedict insisted, “he takes nothing away, and he gives you everything” (Inaugural Homily of Pope Benedict XVI). Soon we will come to the end of this day together and to echo St. Augustine’s words: as we part from each other let us not part from the Lord who calls not merely one in ten of us but every one of us. Don’t run away from the Lord, as Pope Francis often urges us. Take the next step in responding to your calling by drawing closer and closer to Jesus Christ who calls you, who is makes Himself completely and entirely present to us in this Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist.