Yesterday morning, I had the great privilege of attending a Mass up in Toronto where three Franciscan sisters promised to live their vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience for the rest of their lives. They were surrounded by their friends and family; a large group of priests along with Bishop Monforton; and the other sisters of their community.
It was an inspiring thing for me to see - these three women giving everything they are to serving the Lord. All the outward symbols of the ceremony - their grey habits, the rings they received, lying down on the floor in prayer, and making their vows to the superior of the community - point to that inward reality: they've given themselves completely to Jesus.
Now, if you asked them why they were doing that, I don't think any of them would says: "it's because I want to do it." I'm positive the answers they would give would be that they were called by God to live this life.
That's what our readings are about this weekend: being called by God for a mission.
In our first reading, the priest Amaziah tells the prophet Amos to leave him along. He doesn't like what Amos had been sent to announce - that God would judge Israel for their sins. Amos' response is striking. He tells Amaziah that he didn't choose to be a prophet - God chose him. He would be back at home working as a "shepherd and a dresser of sycamores" if God had not sent him to deliver his message.
It is God who calls.
In the second reading, from the letter to the Ephesians, we hear that, as Christians, God has chosen us - from all eternity - to be holy and set apart for him. Just as only the best animals were allowed to be sacrificed in the Old Testament, God has chosen is Church to be perfect, totally His - to receive his forgiveness so that we can live with our Father forever as adopted sons and daughters.
All of us have a calling, a mission from God. First, every single one of us is called to holiness - to be a saint. If you think that sainthood is just for special people or always for "someone else," then you need to hear what I am saying today: every person in this church is called by God to spend eternity with him in heaven. That is what being a saint means and it is our mission while we're on earth to aim for that eternal life.
How we live that call to holiness looks different for everyone. There are as many kinds of saints as there are people. Many people are called to seek holiness in their marriages with a family. Some people are called to give their lives as priests or religious brothers and sisters.
Whatever path God calls us to follow, it leads to him.
Our Gospel reading gives us some three important lessons on how to go into the world as disciples - followers of Jesus whom he sends to share the gospel.
First, the disciples he sends as missionaries all go in pairs. There is no such thing as a solitary Christian. Even monks who live alone in silence are tied into the community of the Church. Our faith is never just "me and Jesus" - we gain strength from the family Jesus has called together. We journey towards haven together. The people around you at this Mass are part of a family that extends all over the world and all the way to heaven.
Second, he sends them out without any real supplies. All they take with them are the clothes and sandals they are wearing and a walking stick. This is so that they will have to rely on God for everything. The food they eat will come from the people who hear them preach. The place they sleep will come out of charity - they shouldn't be looking for the best hotel, but staying in the first place provided to them.
For us that means entrusting everything we do to the Lord. Being a disciple of Jesus doesn't mean we will be rich or famous. We will face difficulties and suffering in the world, but with faith in the One who sends us, we know that everything is in his hands. He doesn't promise us an easy life, but he does promise that he will always be with us.
Finally, the disciples are sent in Jesus' name with his authority. If people accept them, they are accepting Jesus; if they reject them, they reject Jesus as well.
It is not our job to save anyone's soul - there is only one Savior. We only have to be faithful to the mission that he has given us and then let the Holy Spirit do the rest. If you feel discouraged because a loved one has fallen away from practicing their Catholic faith; or if it seems like there is nothing you can do to make a difference for God in the world - don't lose hope. We are only messengers. Be faithful to your relationship with God, love the people that he has placed in your life, and trust him to work in the world.
We all have a mission. It's easy to forget that in the busyness of everyday life, but God wants us to play a part in his work of redeeming the world
Let us recommit ourselves to God and then live our lives always remembering that he has chosen us to be here, called us to know and love him, and sent us to share that love with everyone we meet.
Here is a beautiful reflection by Sr. Sophia Grace, one of the sisters who professed their final vows this weekend.
Check out the sisters' Facebook page for pictures of the Mass.