Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Harvest is Plenty

Today I was reading Zenit.org and there was an article about some television ads produced by Catholics Come Home . I decided to look at the website and the television ads. Both the ads and the website appear very good and have been reported to be effective in bringing people back into active participation in the faith. It seems that many people yearn to return to the Catholic Church, or would like to know more about it, but are a little unsure. Many feel that they have fallen too far and cannot come back. Some may even despair a bit from receiving God's mercy. But to all of these, we would say, "come back, we want you."

The Catholic Church is supposed to be the family of God. (Of course, every Baptized person is already an adopted son or daughter of God the Father). Because we are God's children, our attitude toward those who have strayed for whatever reason is to pray for them and desire their return. Each Mass carries with it the intention that God's mercy would fall upon each and every person. We priests pray several times a day for the whole world, and it is part of our special ministry to be the instruments of God's mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation. Although we do not like sin, we are called to love sinners. Although we are pleased to bring someone back, we are not interested in rubbing their noses in their past sins. After all, we are all sinners in need of God's mercy.

Previously, when I was assigned to the smaller country parish, I calculated that if everyone who had been baptized there came back to Mass, there would need to be no fewer than 7 Masses every Sunday (there was one on Saturday and two on Sunday). In some of our larger parishes, the churches are bursting at the seams and the priests are having to celebrate sometimes 4, 5, or even 6 Masses already. If all those whom God is calling came back, what would we do in those places? Jesus indicated in today's Gospel. He said “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” Indeed the harvest is abundant. The numbers who participate are abundant. The numbers whom God is calling back to experience His mercy and love are even more abundant. But God knows that the laborers are few. So we need to pray for them. (I have always thought that if all those came back who have fallen away, then the numbers of vocations to the priesthood would increase also). We know that God is always at work to provide for His people. But one of the ways which God works is to use us as His instruments. We have to pray. We have to say yes to His calls to serve. God will send us priests, but we must offer the sons of our families and form them to say yes to God. Or else God could call loudly and they might never hear it.

If you know a man who would make a good priest, let him know. If you do not know anyone, pray for the Lord to inspire someone to the ministry. If you are interested in the priesthood (or the religious life for that matter), do not think about it. Rather pray about it and practice saying yes to God. You might even go out on a limb and talk to the vocation director. Until you have some closer firsthand information, it will be difficult to make a reasonable decision. I know that when I realized that people were praying to the Master of the Harvest for more priests, I began to experience God's call. At first, it was very small, then it began to irritate me. Then the call began to consume my waking hours. I began to take little steps toward the ministry, just to see if it was really my calling. Finally I said yes with a free heart. And I have never regretted it.

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