Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sunday word, 13 Apr 2008

Easter Sunday4 (13 Apr 2008) Ac 2. 14a,36-41; Ps 23; 1Pt 2.20b-25; Jn 10. 1-10
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Plural Patterns of Our Single Vocation

Pope Paul VI, 45 years ago, dedicated “Good Shepherd Sunday,” the fourth Sunday of the Easter season each year, to Vocation. I want to reflect with you on our singular vocation and ask you to become more alert to its variety: our single vocation and its plural patterns.

My mother and my father, when he was alive, always were free with my sister and me this way: they encouraged us to be ourselves; to seek what would fulfill us and give us meaning. Elaine is a teacher, which she wanted to be as long as I can remember. I wanted to be a priest as long as I can remember. In our respective roles, Elaine and I share several things: responding to others’ needs; helping people to shape their lives; being aware of individual strengths and weaknesses; respecting each person; extending genuine care and concern; mindful and observant of boundaries.

Discovering one’s way of living God’s universal call to all of us to be holy as God is holy means to discern one’s vocation, to see with our inmost eyes the particular gifts God desires to give us so that we may begin to save []ourselves. The most famous psalm, which we once more made our own response, expressed this gift of the Holy Spirit as a way, a style, a manner of living: Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come.

To discover the concrete, individual ways to live the universal vocation to holiness is above all to respond to God’s gift for you. A person’s response doesn’t follow a straight line. My sister began as an elementary teacher then was asked to be a school’s special education person. After many years she taught fifth graders before retiring almost three years ago.

Between my college seminary and graduate seminary studies I was a research assistant to the chief of Infectious Diseases at a large city’s general hospital. God gifted me in many ways in my interim job--work experience, managing my own housing and finances, exploring celibacy from the angle of rest and relationship, to name a few. The happiest day of my life was my ordination as a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit 23 years ago. I thought I’d be buried with all the archdiocesan priests after a life which rewarded me greatly. Professing my first vows as a Jesuit, 12 years after my ordination, crowned the happiest day of my life.

My life has not been without challenges and desolate experiences. My father died in 2001, and I am making a long goodbye to my mother, who has Alzheimer’s. My Jesuit brothers, friends and you are most supportive.

To each of you I encourage you to be yourself. Be grateful for your abilities and gifts, and acknowledge your limitations. Limitations acknowledged and shared with people you respect and trust, and who respect and trust you, open onto opportunities. Ask yourself: how can I grow more grateful for who I am, what I have and how Jesus stands with me so that [I] may have life and have it more abundantly?

To each parent I encourage you to desire your children’s happy fulfillment in holiness-- whatever expression it may be, especially to build up others, to be a man or woman for others. That seems more difficult to desire for children today.

To each of you living out your vocation to holiness in marriage, in widowhood, as a single person, I encourage you be alert to Jesus’ Spirit prompting you. Jesus’ Spirit prompts us all. Be alert to how others’ lives encourage your own manner of vocation and calls you to love more.

Jesus is our model of selfless love. The Good Shepherd is among the most ancient images of our risen Jesus, in whom each of us has already died and been raised in the waters of baptism.

In your 15 minutes with Jesus this week praise Jesus for his selfless love of you. Ask for the grace to deepen your personal vocation. Speak with Jesus about what gives you meaning and about what challenges you to live as his friend and follower. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, which empowers us to live more authentically and to welcome with more open hands, heart, mind and soul the holiness of God, who creates us one moment at a time.
Wiki-image of the Vatican Museum's Good Shepherd is in the public domain. Wiki-image of photo of Sunlight Through Leaves
by Hana Kirana is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.

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