|Vocation Director for the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta Fr Warren Edwards welcomes Fr John Watkins to the Presbyterate at his ordination in 2010. Photography: Alphonsus Fok & Grace Lu|
That God is love and that He has called us into a communion of love with Him, where our perfect happiness is to be found, seems to be something we have overlooked in much of our contemporary culture. We are so caught up in seeking the fleeting delights of this world that we miss out on the true calling to beatitude.
Pope Benedict XVI has reminded us of this in his message for World Day of Prayer for Vocations. He asks us to meditate on the theme: Vocations, the Gift of the Love of God.
To help us envision the love of God, Pope Benedict reminds us of the realisation of St Augustine. In a famous page of the Confessions, St Augustine expresses with great force his discovery of God, supreme beauty and supreme love, a God who was always close to him, and to whom he at last opened his mind and heart to be transformed:
“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.” (X, 27.38).
With these images, the Saint of Hippo seeks to describe the ineffable mystery of his encounter with God, with God’s love that transforms all of life.
It is the main job of priests to facilitate people to come to this love of God. He is to witness to, teach about and make present the personification of God’s love in Christ.
By his own personal prayer and use of the sacraments he is to be a man of God, close to the source, so that he may be the channel of God’s grace to others.
The priest is the instrument who removes all barriers to us and the love of God by forgiving sins and healing us, especially of our hard hearts.
It is the priest who offers up the sacrifice of the Mass and brings about Christ’s own presence so that we may become one with Him who gives us love and has conquered all sin and evil.
It is the mission of the priest to serve the holiness of the people of God so that we all might be shining lights to a world that has lost hope in goodness and the truth of love.
We need young people who are willing to give it all to be witnesses of love.
It is men and women who consecrate their lives totally to Christ who most clearly witness that God is everything.
To follow God completely is not to miss out on anything but rather gain everything as Christ is the beginning and the end, our reason for existence and our complete satisfaction as human beings.
This love is not clear in the world at the moment and we need to promote it. Our families need to be places of God’s loving presence, places of prayer and piety so that the idea of someone giving themselves totally to Christ is not deemed foreign but recognised for what it is – a great gift being a disciple of Christ and entering into closer union with Him and His mission.
A culture of vocations needs to be embraced if we are going to change the world for the better and bring more souls to the love of God. This culture grows in our families and parishes, seeing holiness as the call of all, and realising it can be achieved through the grace of God.
From this will come many young people who will be willing to give it all as they have encountered the love of God in their families and churches and wish to have it all.
As we all pray hard for vocations, we should pray that we may live out our vocations well in our families and parishes, and pray that young people be inspired to step up and be the leaders who will make Christ present to all the people of God.
If we could only realise God’s love for us in the same way that St Augustine did, then we would have no hesitation to follow at all. Indeed, it would be the things that get in our way of experiencing God’s love to the full which would be deemed as most ugly and unattractive to us.Let us pray this on World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Good Shepherd Sunday on 29 April, for the knowledge and realisation of the love of God in ourselves, the grace to bring this to others and especially that we may have holy priests, deacons, brothers and sisters to lead and guide us to beatitude.
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