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Sunday Readings for Sep. 5, 2010 (23C)
By Father Cusick
Many who love our Church decry the lack of American vocations to the priesthood and religious life. They recognize that effective preaching and teaching of the Gospel will always depend, in part, on those who have been born among, and speak very well the language of, those whom they serve in the mission of the Church. When this comes up in conversation, I often remind the one speaking that vocations come from families.
This being so, who better to do something about the vocation dearth than married couples and families? God chooses to call men and women out of any circumstance to serve the Church as priests and religious, but these men and women must first know the freedom necessary to respond to the Lord's call with joyful self-giving.
Though many who have already answered the call to priesthood and religious life are an only child, it yet remains true that many do not experience the freedom to answer the call for the reason that they are an only child. Those who love marriage and family enough to answer God's call to marriage and family life, also love to see that life continue in grandchildren. It must be said that this is a very good thing.
Knowing this, and wanting to respond to this human need and the very good gift of God in human life, a young man or woman, to whom it falls alone to pass on the family name or continue life to the next generation, may not experience the freedom necessary to respond to a religious vocation as might a child who has several siblings. Thus, it is a very necessary thing to occasionally remind married couples to give serious consideration and prayer to whether or not they are responding with generosity to their calling to be open to new life.
God's love is generous, and that God's love may truly live in husband and wife, these two are called to reflect divine love in, among other things, a generous openness to new life. As well, the family itself is ordered toward the eternal life of each member and the vocation through which each member approaches eternity."Family ties are important but not absolute. Just as the child grows to maturity and human and spiritual autonomy, so his unique vocation which comes from God asserts itself more clearly and forcefully. Parents should respect this call and encourage their children to follow it. They must be convinced that the first vocation of the Christian is to follow Jesus: He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me."
Perhaps the most beautiful gift of a parent's love is to respect and nurture the freedom of their children that they might be radically generous to follow the Lord to whichever vocation he calls. This too is generosity."Becoming a disciple of Jesus means accepting the invitation to belong to God's family, to live in conformity with His way of life: For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother. Parents should welcome and respect with joy and thanksgiving the Lord's call to one of their children to follow him in virginity for the sake of the Kingdom in the consecrated life or in priestly ministry."
Many are quick to praise Christ. Few possess the generosity and self-sacrifice to follow him closely by giving up mother, father, wife and children for his sake. It is a higher calling to anticipate the kingdom of heaven by embracing the will of Christ through the priesthood and religious life. Families do well to place Christ at the center of their family life and to allow Him to inspire and guide their hopes and dreams for children, spouses and all families.
"Christ is the center of all Christian life. The bond with him takes precedence over all other bonds, familial or social. (Cf. Luke 14:26; Mark 10:28-31.) From the very beginning of the Church there have been men and women who have renounced the great good of marriage to follow the Lamb wherever he goes, to be intent on the things of the Lord, to seek to please him, and to go out to meet the Bridegroom who is coming. (Cf. Rev 14:4; 1 Cor 7:32; Mt 25:6.) Christ himself has invited certain persons to follow him in this way of life, of which he remains the model: 'For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.' (Mt 19:12.)" (CCC 1618)
Celibacy is a charism, a gift and grace entrusted to the Church by Christ her Lord. Many will continue to be called to receive this gift until the end of the world. Celibacy for the sake of the kingdom is a sign of the authenticity and the presence of Christ in His Body, the Church.May we never spurn this or any of the graces he bestows upon all of us as members of His Body."Virginity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven is an unfolding of baptismal grace, a powerful sign of the supremacy of the bond with Christ and of the ardent expectation of his return, a sign which also recalls that marriage is a reality of this present age which is passing away."
(See also Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph numbers 1620 and 2544.)