Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Prayer for Vocations

A Prayer for Vocations
Homily for Sunday, April 26, 2015
Fourth Sunday of Easter - B
by Dcn Bob Bonomi 

This Sunday is the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.  In 1964, Pope Paul the 6th designated the 4th Sunday of Easter, also known as Good Shepherd Sunday, to be a World Day of Prayer for Vocations, and so we are supposed to “pray for vocations” this weekend.  What do you think about when you hear the word, “vocation”?  I’m willing to bet that the first thing that pops into your mind is the call to the priesthood or to the consecrated life.  And that’s all well and good, but is that all there is to a vocation?  To be a priest or a nun?  NO. 

Let’s look at a definition for vocation.  Merriam-Webster’s abbreviated definition says that a vocation is “a strong desire to spend your life doing a certain kind of work (such as religious work)” or “the work that a person does or SHOULD be doing.”  I like that– SHOULD be doing.  But in the spiritual sense, a vocation is much more than just “work”.  Your vocation helps define who you ARE.

Do you know what YOUR vocation is?  We all have one, you know.  Oh, I don’t mean your job, or your hobbies, or even your ministries – although they all may reflect your vocation.  No, I mean what is it that you are called to “BE”, in the eyes of God.

Before you can discern WHAT your vocation is, you first should know WHO you are.  Some people spend their entire life trying to figure out who they are.  We suffer from an “identity crisis”; we worry about what people think of us and we often struggle to form ourselves into how we think others should see us.  We miss out entirely on who we really are, in God’s eyes.  So, who are we?

As St. Paul says in today’s second reading, “we are God’s children NOW”.  GOD’s children.  Before anything else, we are a CHILD OF GOD.

What does that mean to us?  How does that help us determine our vocation?

Well, Jesus said that we should be holy, just as God our Father is holy.  So, THAT is our first vocation, as children of God – to be HOLY.  Does that sound vague?  It isn’t.  The pursuit of holiness should be the underlying motivation for whatever we decide to spend our life doing, and that includes our jobs, our hobbies, - yes, especially our ministries.  If what we do in our life doesn’t draw us to holiness, then we already have a problem.

Oh, great.  That means that all of you attorneys, you doctors, you computer programmers – whatever you’re doing, if it isn’t religious work, then you obviously missed the boat when you were called to your vocation.  RIGHT?  NO.  It only means that we always keep in mind that our first vocation is a call to holiness, and THEN, if in the performance of our chosen occupation keeps us from that call, maybe we should re-evaluate what we are doing with our lives.

And how do we answer the call to holiness in our daily lives?  Jesus shows us how, in today’s Gospel, as he begins with the simple statement,   “I am the Good Shepherd”.

Why a shepherd?  Now, Jesus obviously didn’t tend sheep as his occupation, but he wanted to emphasize the virtues of one who was a child of God – in Jesus’ case, God’s only begotten Son. And the image of God as the shepherd of His people is one used throughout the Old Testament, so it is an image that the people of Israel would be familiar with.  Jesus used this image to show the difference between BEING a shepherd and WORKING as a sheepherder.

“A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”   But, 
“The hired hand … works for pay and has no concern for the sheep."

So, to be a child of God and holy in our vocation, we must care enough for those that God puts in our lives to be willing to sacrifice everything for them.  Those we care for include not only our families, our friends, our co-workers – but ALL who touch our lives.  WE are called to be shepherds to them.  THAT is our call to holiness.  To love others and lead them to God in whatever job we have, whatever our situation in life.

And we, in turn, need good shepherds to show us the way to holiness.  We need good, holy, loving clergy and religious people whose JOB - whose VOCATION - it is to BE holy and help us find our own holiness.  They are OUR shepherds.

And it can be a tough time to be a shepherd in the Church today.  The wolves of our society are prowling around the edges of our sheepfold - even among us - trying to snatch us away from God.  And the wolves are particularly interested in attacking our shepherds.

So, then, what SHOULD we be praying for, on this World Day of Prayer for Vocations?  Obviously, we should be praying for those men and women who have chosen a religious or consecrated life – especially our priests.  Especially this week – really, every day – we should be offering up to God a prayer of thanksgiving for those who have answered the call of a religious vocation, especially our Priests.  And we need to pray for an increase in religious vocations.  But, let us also pray for holiness in our lives, and to know our own vocation.

I want to leave you with a simple prayer – a prayer for vocations and for us to know our own vocation.  Please close your eyes:

Dear God, I ask your blessings on those who are seeking to know their vocation.  I pray:

1.   For the young – that they be open to God’s call to the religious life
2.   For single adults – that they have the virtues of chastity, patience and courage to answer their call
3.   For married people and those who are parents – that they embrace the vocation of marriage, of family, as witnesses to God’s love
4.   For priests, deacons and other religious men and women – that they continue to find joy in their vocations
5.   For older people – that they serve the Church as lay ministers
6.   For the elderly – that they be prayer warriors for those who cannot pray

Lord, my God and my loving Father, you have made me to know you, to love you, to serve you, and thereby to find and to fulfill my deepest longings. I know that you are in all things, and that every path can lead me to you. But of them all, there is one especially by which you want me to come to you. Since I will do what you want of me, I pray you, send your Holy Spirit to me: into my mind, to show me what you want of me; into my heart, to give me the determination to do it, and to do it with all my love, with all my mind, and with all of my strength right to the end.

Jesus, I trust in you.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Works of Mercy

The Works of Mercy
A reflection for a meeting for the St. Vincent de Paul Society, Monday, April 13, 2015
by Dcn Bob Bonomi 

I'd like to reflect on last Sunday’s First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles:

The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the Apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all.
There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the Apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. - Acts 4:32-35

If this reading described our world today, there wouldn’t be a need for the St. Vincent de Paul society – everyone would willingly care for all those who were in need in their community.  And yet, even though the world at large doesn't look like this, the description is so appropriate for the mission of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.  The Society, like that early community of believers, witnesses to others through the works of mercy taught by Jesus.  

I’d like to reflect briefly on the fourteen Works of Mercy as they are seen in the mission of St. Vincent de Paul.  I know many of you know them by heart (especially those who had to memorize them in the days of the old Baltimore Catechism), but I confess that I still have to look them up.  So, for those of you like me who tend to forget things, or just as a quick refresher, they are:

The 7 Corporal Works:  (1) Feed the Hungry; (2) Give Drink to the Thirsty; (3) Clothe the Naked; (4) Visit the Imprisoned; (5) Shelter the Homeless; (6) Visit the Sick; and (7) Bury the Dead.

The 7 Spiritual Works:  (1) Instruct the Ignorant; (2) Counsel the Doubtful; (3) Comfort the Sorrowful; (4) Admonish the Sinner; (5) Bear Wrongs Patiently; (6) Forgive all Injuries; and (7) Pray for the Living and the Dead.

While the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is best known for its attention to the Corporal Works of Mercy, the Spiritual Works are just as important, if not more so.  And so, as we minister to their physical needs, let us also minister to their spiritual needs:
  • As we feed those who are hungry, let us also instruct them on how they can provide for themselves.
  • As we give drink to those who thirst, let us also counsel and encourage them to face their trials with hope.
  • As we clothe the naked, let us also comfort them in the sadness of their needs.
  • As we visit those imprisoned by their needs, let us also help them to see errors in their ways, but to do so with love.
  • As we shelter the homeless, let us also remain patient when we experience the outbursts from their frustration.
  • As we visit the sick and injured, let us also try to understand those who are angry or in pain.
  • As we bury the dead, let us also pray for the living who have not discovered life in Christ.
And in all things, help us to remember that it is You, God, who are in control and it is only through Your grace that we are allowed to minister to your people.  Jesus, we trust in You!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Lord, Let Me See You

Lord, Let Me See You
A reflection during the Octave of Easter for Thursday, April 9, 2015
by Dcn Bob Bonomi 

We are still within the Octave of Easter, meaning that we celebrate Easter Day every day this week.  And in each Gospel reading this week, we hear about people who encounter Jesus after His Resurrection: Mary Magdalene at the tomb; the disciples on the road to Emmaus; the disciples who are locked in the upper room; the disciples who are fishing with Peter.  The octave ends on Divine Mercy Sunday with the story of Doubting Thomas.

Do you believe in the Resurrection?  REALLY believe?  In each Gospel passage we see that those who were closest to Jesus do not recognize him when they first encounter Him after His Resurrection.  Why?  I think it's for two reasons.  First, Jesus had changed.  Yes, he still had his body with it's wounds and general appearance, but have you ever seen how different someone looks after something really special has happened to them?  How often we talk about how someone "glows" when they are in love?  Or how someone just "beams" with joy and pride when they have a child?  Think about how it can be hard to recognize someone when you encounter them someplace that you didn't expect them.  In coming to St. Francis I encounter people that I'm sure I know but can't identify them because I've known them from someplace else.

Second, they couldn't believe it COULD be Jesus because, really, He DIED.  They SAW it.  Logic not only controlled their thoughts; it controlled their vision.  We see what we want to see, or rather, we DON'T see what we don't believe we can see.

What about you?  Do you believe that you can or will see Jesus?  Saint Sister Faustina Kowalska did.  We celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday this weekend because of her visions of Jesus which led to our devotion to Divine Mercy.  Or how about Saint Sister Margaret Mary Alacoque, who gave us the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus? Maybe we've come face to face with Jesus, only to not recognize Him because we don't believe we can see Him.

So, during this Easter Season, let's start each day with this prayer.  Put it on your mirror where you'll see it the first thing when you get up:

"Lord, you created me to see You.  Lord, I believe in Your Resurrection.  Lord, I believe that you are still with me.  Let me see You today."  Amen.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Surely It Is Not I, Lord

Surely It Is Not I, Lord
A Lenten Minute Reflection for Wednesday, April 1, 2015
by Dcn Bob Bonomi

Wednesday of Holy Week has usually been for me an odd day.  It's at the end of the "routine" of Lent and the day before all the "real" action begins with the Triduum and the Mass of the Lord's Supper.  The calm before the storm.  Today's Gospel, a snippet from one of the Last Supper chronicles, sets the stage with Judas' betrayal and offers us one last look at how once we set a ball in motion how hard it can be to stop it.

Judas had already committed to betraying Jesus when he sat down to dine with Him and the others.  You have to wonder - did his blood run cold when Jesus announced that one of those present will betray Him?  Did he stop to wonder why Jesus didn't just call him out in front of everyone?  When Jesus answers him with, "You have said so", He is telling Judas that He knows what Judas has done and will do, and Judas has already answered his own question through his thoughts and actions.

Now that we are at the end of Lent, we should pause a moment before plunging into the next three days leading up to Easter to ask ourselves, "Surely it is not I, Lord, who betrays you?"  Either way, Jesus' answer will always be the same: "You have said so."  Our thoughts and actions will determine whether or not we are innocent - or guilty.  It's not too late to change.

Thank you for journeying with me during Lent.  This ends this series of Lenten reflections. Beginning tomorrow, we all will start the next step in our travels - to the Cross and beyond.  May your Easter be one of hope and promise.
Deacon Bob