Helping people to see Jesus

11-03-2019From Fr. Antony's DeskFr. John Barbella

Today’s Gospel is about Zacchaeus – a short man who climbed a tree to see Jesus. His efforts to see Jesus make me think about my call to the priesthood. A priest – among other things – is a man sent by God to help people see Jesus.

While every Christian should help others see Jesus, a priest must do this in some very special ways. By his preaching, the priest helps people see Jesus’ message more clearly. By his willingness to sacrifice marriage and family for the service of the Church, the priest helps people see Jesus’ sacrifice. Most of all, a priest helps people see Jesus’ mercy in Confession and His continued presence among us in the Holy Eucharist – under the appearance of bread and wine. Indeed, every priest has a sacred duty to do his best – in spite of his human limitations – to help people see Jesus Christ.

My own call to the priesthood began when I was about 8 years old. When I told other people – I think they mostly thought it was a cute idea that would fade over time. But it didn’t.

While other ideas came to my head as I grew up, the priesthood was the only one that kept coming back. By age 14, I was convinced that God wanted me to be a priest. Looking back, I can say that God was very persistent.

This week is National Vocation Awareness Week. It’s a time to make a special effort to pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. It’s also a time to think about what we can do to encourage young people to think about whether God might be calling them – and to say yes if He is!

Our parish has a long history of people who have answered God’s call. We were pleased to see two men from our parish ordained to the holy priesthood last June- Fathers Matt Marinelli and Joe Illes. The weekend of their ordinations and First Holy Masses were a great joy to our parish and an inspiration to me and many others. Our parish is also blessed by the weekend ministry of Fr. Patrick Boyle, OFM, who grew up in our parish and answered God’s call to the priesthood.

Some people ask me how they can know if God is indeed calling them to be a priest. The best answer I can give is that if they have even a remote feeling that God might want them to be a priest, they should do a couple of things. First, they should speak to a priest they trust – one with whom they feel comfortable. He can answer questions they have and help them sort out their thoughts. He can also help them pray more deeply about it, and help them discern whether or not God may indeed be calling him. I have been honored to do this for several young men over the years, some of whom are fine priests today.

In addition to speaking with a priest, I would encourage such a man to spend time in adoration – quietly sitting with our Lord. Many good priests first heard Christ’s call as they sat silently before Him.

There is also a vocations kiosk in the lobby of the Church. It is filled with pamphlets and booklets that can help a person learn how to discern a call to the priesthood – or a young woman a call to the religious life. There are even booklets and things to help the rest of us learn how to help young people know if they are being called by God. Take a look are it today.

A seminarian from our diocese – Thomas Pluhar – will visit our parish this week and speak at most of our Masses. I know we will make him welcome and keep him in our prayers as he answers God’s call to help people see Christ.

Finally, I would encourage everyone in our parish to do their part to help those whom God is calling to answer His call. Pray that God will call many young men from our parish to be priests – and pray that those He is calling will have the courage and generosity to say yes! Perhaps we can all say an extra Hail Mary for that each day. What a beautiful parish project that would be.

I would be remiss if, when speaking about vocations, I failed to mention our Serra Club. The Serra Club is a group of people who commit themselves to praying for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. They do this especially be attending a special Mass on the first and third Tuesday of every month in our Church at 6 PM. Everyone is welcome to join us in praying for vocations at this Mass. After Mass they have a dinner meeting with a talk on some spiritual matter, usually given by a priest. You can simply come to the Serra Mass some Tuesday, or get more information form me or the parish office.

In the meantime, please say a Hail Mary for me – and for an increase in vocations – each day.

Have a great week!

Fr. John