Vocations Sunday - 2010
I was ordained a deacon on 13th May 1995. Three weeks later my mother died. She had cancer. My diaconate ordination was the last Mass that she was at. Some people at that time asked me how I could possibly decide to be ordained at that time. It was a very fair question. However in many ways my mother's sickness and death helped me to give in to God's gift of priesthood for me.
When my mother died I realised more than ever that our lives cannot make sense or be contained in this life only. This world does not have the power to hold us permanently. In a sense this world can never be enough for us. The Good News that Jesus came into the world to proclaim is that his love for us is greater and bigger and more powerful than the world. In the gospel today we hear Jesus saying
I will give them eternal life;
they will never be lost.
Jesus came into the world, he died on the cross and he rose from the dead so that we could live for ever in his love. In many ways it is as simple as that. This is the heart of our faith. As people of faith I suppose our focus needs to be on the love of Jesus that last for ever. It is in the context of this everlasting love that we are called to live our lives. In many ways we live our lives in the arms of Jesus if we allow him to hold us. That is what he wants us to do. That is what he desires.
God in Jesus has a dream or a plan for every single one of us at every stage of our lives here on earth and ultimately in heaven. We live that dream or plan in the arms of Jesus. However discovering the dream or plan can be very difficult. We can be so unsure about what we want to do in life - about what Jesus wants us to do in life. Sometimes we can believe that our desire for our lives and God's desire for our lives can be in conflict. For example God wants me to be good and I want to be bad! However if we give in to God's desire one of the amazing things is that often what happens is that we discover that there is no difference between God's desire and our true desire. They are one because God's knows.
I think that the great danger in life is that we don't try to discover not only God's desire for us but our own desire for ourselves. So often we can live our lives without realising how valuable our lives are and that our lives are necessary and that God's dream for us is necessary and life giving. When don't try to discover God's dream for us life can pass us by. In many ways we can be passengers in life. This is particularly difficult for young people.
I know that when I was a teenager I thought about priesthood and tried to put it out of my mind. I couldn't do it. It kept coming back to me. I knew that I needed to explore it more before I let it go. I went to Maynooth and after eight years I was ordained. In many ways I gave in to God's dream for me and I discovered that God's dream was my dream too. That gives me great peace.
The peace that comes from sharing in the dream of God is not a detached peace that comes from an avoidance of real life. It is a peace that gives the strength and purpose to live real live no matter what suffering that might involve.
I wish my mother was still alive today but her life, her death and her continuing presence in my life now has taught me so much about what really matters in life. Most of all it has taught me that not much in this life makes sense if we don't look at it in the context of eternal life in the loving arms of Jesus.
Fr Paul Farren