The first of two weekends designated by the diocese as Commitment Weekends for the Catholic Ministry Appeal
During the course of his preaching, Jesus became aware that Simon and his companions had failed to catch any fish that day. After preaching to the crowds, he instructed the fishermen to go out one more time in search of fish. The miraculous catch of fish shocked Simon into a sudden awareness of God’s presence, and Jesus responded by inviting Simon to become a disciple.
Jesus’ invitation to Simon Peter to become a ‘fisher of people’ is an example of a recurring theme in Luke’s Gospel. Jesus had been preaching and healing in Capernaum. By this time, he was widely known in the city. When he approached Simon’s boat, Simon knew him already and had seen his miracles. Relying on his previous acquaintance with Simon, Jesus commandeered Simon’s boat.
In various forms, this pattern of introduction, preaching, theophany, and vocational call is repeated throughout Luke’s Gospel; in fact, the entire Gospel follows this pattern. One of the better-known instances of this pattern is Jesus’ encounter with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. After Jesus’ crucifixion, the two disciples left Jerusalem. He walked up to them and began a conversation; the conversation led to an opportunity to preach about the Scriptures. His preaching, and their fellowship with him at supper, made the two disciples acutely aware of God’s presence. After Jesus’ departure, they felt impelled to return to Jerusalem to announce his resurrection.
Luke’s Gospel repeats this pattern often to instruct us about how faith is formed and nurtured. Faith in Jesus begins with an introduction, that is, a basic familiarity with Jesus and his mission. This basic familiarity becomes a conscious religious experience when one makes an effort to attend to God’s Word. Hearing the Word of God can lead to an encounter with God’s presence, and that encounter with God becomes an invitation to the vocation of disciple.
Two weeks ago, Deacon Jim spoke about his vocational path to the permanent diaconate. His family’s religious practice, and his involvement in his parish, led him to consider a vocation. His vocation developed in response to formal instruction and spiritual direction. Eventually, he was ordained to the permanent diaconate and has served in several ministerial capacities in the diocese. At each step of the way, the ministry offices of our diocese provided guidance and help.
A vocation to church ministry doesn’t appear fully formed from heaven. A vocation develops in the way described by Luke’s Gospel. It begins with an introduction to the identity and mission of Jesus; this is the sort of knowledge communicated to children and adults who receive religious instruction and faith formation. A vocation develops adequately only in the presence of the preaching of God’s Word; this takes place primarily in one’s local parish. A vocation, either to ordained or lay ministry, comes to fruition when the individual is called to service by the Church. At each step of the way, the local parish, the diocesan leadership, and the diocese’s ministry activities play crucial roles in calling and forming priests, deacons, and lay ministers; for this reason, I ask you to participate in the Catholic Ministry Appeal.
The Catholic Ministry Appeal is an invitation for you to support, and participate in, those offices and activities that evangelize the unbelieving, catechize children and adults, prepare priests, deacons, and lay ministers for service to the Church, prepare couples for marriage, and extend God’s mercy to the poor and marginalized. Our parish goal is $76,000 – a small contribution that pays big dividends for our parish and the entire diocese.
Most of you have already received letters from me and Bishop Parkes. If you are not on our mailing list, you are still invited to participate. There are pledge envelopes available for your use; every pledge or gift supports the ministry activities that are crucial to serving the spiritual needs of our local church community.
Priests, deacons, and lay ministers love to think of their parish as the visible evidence of the efforts they put forth on behalf of the Church. This judgement is true, but it is not the whole truth about ministry. It is also true that the priests, deacons, and lay ministers of the diocese are the visible evidence of your efforts on behalf of the Church. Your gift or pledge to the Catholic Ministry Appeal is both evidence of your faithfulness and a visible witness to the vitality of our local church community.
Every baptized person is called to discipleship and to support the vocations of church ministers. Each of us is invited to respond to God’s call by repeating the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Here I am. Send me!” (Is 6:8) Contributing to the Catholic Ministry Appeal is one important way that we respond positively to God’s call. Please consider supporting our diocesan ministry offices in their work of forming ministers for service to the Church.
In addition to supporting the Catholic Ministry Appeal, I ask you also to consider how God is calling you. Isaiah the prophet was called while worshiping in the Temple (1st reading). Paul of Tarsus was called while persecuting the followers of Jesus (2nd reading). Simon was called while working at his trade (Gospel reading). God calls each person in the midst of daily life. The place or situation where you experience God’s presence is both the place where you are called and the place where you are called to serve. Where does God’s presence intersect with your daily life?