Homily for 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time by Rev. Br. Shane Nicholas, AIHM

 

We all know the public work of a shepherd protecting the flock from predators and gathering the lost little ones and getting them back into fold.  What most don't know is what happens behind the scenes.  Here is the rest of the story.

 

Milking twice a day, treating scrapes, rotating pastures to help with parasites, treating parasites, trimming hoofs to avoid hoof rot and in-grown hoofs, helping to kid,  cleaning out the barn, stacking endless 75 pound bales of hay and 50 pound bags of grain, and although it may sound odd, just sitting in the barn or corral being with them, petting on them, talking to them....and the list goes on. All of this is being a good Shepherd.

 

Last week Bishop Joseph challenged us and reminded us that it was the job of the laity to take peace and reconciliation out into our daily lives.

 

Today I want to extend that job some. 

 

None of us live in a vacuum. We cannot exist without other people.  And no, you are not the center of the universe, the world does not revolve around you. Or me! Being human and being Christian calls us to share our lives, the ups and the downs, with others...it's called community.

 

We are each of us called to be Christ to one another. So, what does that mean? You are called to be love to each and every person you meet or interact with. We are called to be compassionate, forgiving, and show mercy to everyone.  This doesn't mean we are a doormat and allow others to use us. But all that we do must be done with unconditional love.  This means that all of us are to help shepherd.  Priests and Bishops can minister to those who come for it but you as laity are tasked with helping to tend the flock. 
As laity you are charged to help bind up the wounds, be a strong pair if shoulders for those that need to lean on you, be a listening ear when someone needs to talk or vent, having a warm hug and dry shoulders if someone needs to cry, to help with the day to day care of our family....the human family. We are called to love every person, regardless.  

 

The story of the Good Samaritan is the story of what the laity are called to do.  Tend the sick and the dying, comfort those in need, feed the hungry, clothe the naked. TO BE CHRIST EVEN TO THE PERSON YOU DON'T KNOW: TO BE LOVE. Paul, in our second reading says: "he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity."  It is no longer us and them, you and me. It really is just US.

 

In our Gospel today Jesus tells the disciples to come away to a deserted place and rest a while. But the people kept coming. Jesus looked out on the huge crowd that gathered around him and had pity saying they were like sheep without a Shepherd. He didn't send them away or ignore them.  And although the disciples had just returned from their first mission work, he didn't tell them to go ahead and rest. He set aside his own hunger, his own fatigue, his own needs, because the flock needed tending. And he asked the disciples to do the same. And he again began teaching them.

 
 

Today I challenge each of you to assist the Shepherd in tending the flock; to offer your own unique person to person care and compassion. And I want each of you to ponder on this question: How am I called to serve my human family?  

As Vocation Director for the Order one of the questions I hear the most is, “I’m not sure if I have a vocation. How do I know if I have one?”  Every person has a vocation. I think many people confuse vocation with having a career. An example I like to use is that if you are a nurse, this is your job or career. It’s not a vocation. Or if you drive truck for a living, this is your career, but again, it’s not a vocation.

So what is a vocation? And how can everyone have one? And can we have more than one?   

A vocation, simply put, is how we are called to serve God and each other. Some are called to married life, or married life and parenthood. Some are called to live their life Single. Some are called to serve in the priesthood or religious life.  Obviously this small list is not a complete list, but should give an idea.

Everyone has a vocation.  I say this because we are all called to love and serve God – how we do that determines in part our vocation.

Is it possible to have more than one vocation? Sure it is! Some are called to the married life and to serve God as a Religious or as a Priest.  God gives us our vocation(s) and He gives us the strength to live them.  We believe that just because God has called you to a vocation as a husband or wife, and perhaps a mom or dad, doesn’t mean you can’t serve him as Religious Brother or Sister, or even as a Priest.

The real question isn’t, “Do I have a vocation?” But, “What is my vocation?”

That question is one that I can’t answer for you (or those that ask me that.)  So I ask a question: “How do you see yourself serving God?” Often I hear, “I don’t know.”

Let me share a bit of my story – it’s not typical by any means.

I was raised Southern Baptist, but from a very early age (actually around age 4 or 5) I remember telling my Mom that I wanted to be a priest. I didn’t understand what a priest was or that I would have to leave the Baptist church. As I grew older that desire to serve God and his people at the altar never went away.  Sure I wanted to be a teacher and several other things along the way – including a country singer.  But that desire to serve God never went away. In fact as I got older it felt like my heart was burning to serve. Along the way I realized I was called to the Religious life, but I also wanted a loving relationship with another person.

So, not knowing that I could have a dual vocation of Marriage and Religious life, I settled down and have been with my partner for going on 23 years.  But that burning to serve God as a Religious and as a priest never went away, and although I was happy in my relationship, I was miserable because I knew I wasn’t doing all I was called to do.

Finally, thanks to a friend, I realized a person can have multiple vocations and I began the search to serve God as completely as I could.  Enter the Augustinians of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  

I remember the moment I entered the Novitiate the fire that had been burning in my heart for over 20 years was quenched. From there I entered the seminary program and began my journey to quench the fire of serving God at that alter.

Yes! I’ll say it again, Yes! You have a vocation or two.

Is God calling you to serve Him as a Religious? Is he calling you to a deeper commitment of community? It would be my honor to discern and pray with you.  

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