Homily 24th January, 2021

Man casting a fishing net on the water in the sunset

Homily for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time A

Since at least two of today’s readings tell us about a vocation, I wanted to share with you my reflection on this special gift that I also discovered many years ago. Since I became a priest, people very often – mainly young people – ask me this question: How did it happen that you entered the seminary and then became a priest? Did you hear any voice from heaven telling you what to do?

Or another question: Father, when did you find out that you wanted to be a priest? Have you never had any doubts that this is the only right way in your life?

And finally: What is the essence of the vocation to the priesthood or any other vocation, and how can this feeling be discerned and to be more understandable to ordinary people?

Whenever I try to answer these types of questions, I remember one of the books written by Saint John Paul II in which the Pope describes his own calling. And I think that the very title of this extremely interesting book can tells us a lot about it: Gift and Mystery. I think these two simple words really tell us a lot about each vocation, which is an undeserved gift from God and at the same time a mystery so difficult to understand even for the most intelligent and outstanding theologians.

In today’s gospel, we heard a very inspiring story of the calling of the first four disciples of Jesus: Simon, Andrew, James, and John. What intrigues and inspires me the most in this short passage of the Gospel is, above all, the initiative that came from Jesus himself. It was Jesus himself who took the first step by choosing and then inviting these ordinary fishermen from Galilee to an extraordinary adventure of faith with him. As we probably know – in the time of Jesus, in Palestine – it was the disciples who used to look for and choose their master whom they wanted to listen to and follow, just as today many young people choose their universities, professors and fields of study that they are most interested in. This time – as we heard in the gospel – it was Jesus who chose and called those he wanted. And I think it is difficult to look for any logic or explanation there, because – as John Paul II used to say – every vocation is a gift and a mystery. As history shows us, all of them: Simon and Andrew, James and John, were by no means ideal candidates and in no way deserved the privilege of being so close to the Master of Nazareth. They didn’t have any special abilities or talents because the only profession they had so far practiced was that of simple and modest fishermen from Galilee.

The second thing that struck me and amazed me in today’s gospel was their immediate willingness to undertake the mission assigned to them by Jesus. Let us try to imagine for a moment this extraordinary scene that happened on the shores of the Sea of ​​Galilee. And let’s try to ask what must have been in the eyes of Jesus, what was the power of persuasion in his voice and invitation, since – as we heard – at one point they left their nets and followed him. When I remember myself, when – after passing all the exams – I had to make a final decision about my future, I think something very similar happened in my life. At some stage of my life, I left my own nets, changed all my plans and dreams so far, and – like a blind man or a man completely in love – followed him without knowing where I was going to. And what can I say in retrospect – like the apostles Simon, Andrew, James and John – I’ve never regretted my choice and decision.

Gift and mystery – this is the essence of every vocation, and I think the same could be said by Canon John and Sister Aiden and many other priests and religious sisters we know who responded positively to Jesus’ invitation: Follow me and I will make you into fishers of men.

There is one more thought I wanted to share with you. I clearly remember one of Pope Benedict’s pilgrimages to Warsaw to my country where I discovered and developed my vocation. Well, the Pope said then very significant words about the priesthood that I remembered. He said: The faithful expect only one thing from priests: that they be specialists in promoting the encounter between man and God. The priest is not asked to be an expert in economics, construction or politics. He is expected to be an expert in the spiritual life… In the face of the temptations of relativism or the permissive society, there is absolutely no need for the priest to know all the latest, changing currents of thought; what the faithful expect from him is that he be a witness to the eternal wisdom contained in the revealed Word.

May today’s gospel encourage and inspire us to pray for new vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, so that all who hear Jesus’ voice: Follow me, may respond with joy and enthusiasm: Here I am, Lord, send me! Let us ask God that – in these difficult times in which we live – he will appoint new apostles, priests and religious sisters who will be his followers and true specialists in our spiritual life.

Fr Gregory