A blessed Mother’s Day to the mothers and grandmothers among us. It’s amazing, really: fatherhood waxes and wanes, but motherhood stays consistent. A few years ago the National Ad Council began plastering ads on freeways and TV networks urging men to “take time to be a Dad today,” and every few months new billboards promoting fatherhood appear in the City. I haven’t yet seen billboards urging women to be good mothers. And so many thanks to our dearest mothers, and don't forget our grandmothers, many of whom are raising their grandchildren. Many of our mothers and grandmothers may be far from us or already passed from this life, but we can still give them the best gift of all: a prayer. I’m going to say a second rosary today just for my mother, and of course I hope all of us will remember our mothers in this Holy Mass.
Good Shepherd Sunday
We call the fourth Sunday of Easter “Good Shepherd Sunday” because of its Gospel. I am the Good Shepherd, Jesus says. “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.” Since 1963 the Fourth Sunday of Easter is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. You get what you pray for, and if we don’t pray for good priests and nuns, we won’t get them. The word “vocation” comes from the Latin vocare, “to call,” which itself comes from the root word vox or “voice,” as in “My sheep hear my voice.” Most people, however, are listening to anything but the voice of God on their little white headphones. So on this 56th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, the Church asks us to pray that the sheep hear and answer God’s voice. May the gentle voice of the Good Shepherd be heard above today’s incessant devices and ideologies.
Longing for the Voice
A vocation is a voice from another world, but it’s not unlike the voice of our mother or father. At age 17 I left home for college. My mother drove me to Harrisburg, PA, and handed me my suitcase as I climbed aboard the train for Penn State. I had been the commencement speaker three months before at my little country high school. University Park’s 40,000 students seriously disorientated me, and at times my homesickness was acute. One night the terrible realization that I was homeless—that I could never return to my boyhood—overwhelmed me. At that moment, through the darkness of my dorm room, I heard my mother’s voice from far away. The voice was clear and unmistakable, just the way she used to call me for dinner: “Joe…!” Home was irrevocably beyond my reach, but my mother could still call my name.
Thirsting for the Word of God
In the first reading, the whole town comes out to hear Paul and Barnabas. They thirst for the Word of God, which was calling them home. Like the multitudes that listened to Jesus, and the immense crowds who traveled days to hear the Reverend Martin Luther King or Pope John Paul II, they hungered for the Word of Life. In the Second Reading, the Apostle John sees a huge crowd whom no one could count from every nation and race who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. They follow Him wherever He goes. At age 12 I heard the Word of God through aunts and uncles who said I should be a priest. In college I heard the Voice again through a vocations director who encouraged me to enter priestly formation. It was a call that burned even more intensely when I became still in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. I entered the seminary at age 24 and have never looked back. This coming Saturday three young men, one of whom began serving my Masses 18 years ago in Modesto, will be ordained to the Holy Priesthood at 10am in the cathedral. I encourage you to support these new priests by attending their ordination. They are entering the priesthood in a time of terrible conflict and disarray in the Church. They need our prayers.
A Man of Prayer
An older priest once told me in the seminary: “Joe, I hope you will persevere. And just remember, nothing can touch a man of prayer.” He meant especially the Holy Eucharist and Our Lady. A priest who spends an hour before the Blessed Sacrament every day and prays his rosary will persevere. And so will we all. Let us honor Mary, the Mother of God, in this Eucharist, by crowning her queen of the Church and queen of the clergy. I invite now Mr. Spencer Christensen to carry his three-year-old daughter Agnes to will crown our statue of the Blessed Mother.