Quo Vadis Homily
St. Joseph, Cockeysville
July 21, 2020
Quo Vadis Then and Now
First, I want to thank all of you for taking part in the 2020 version of Quo Vadis. As some of you know, we usually get together for a few days of prayer, reflection, and fun at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary. This year, we have to do it differently but the basic idea is the same. It is an opportunity for you to think and pray about the direction of your life.
Quo Vadis means, “Where are you going?” It is said to be the question that the Risen Lord asked the Apostle Peter
when he was slipping away from Rome to avoid being crucified. The Lord asks the same question of each of us, deep within our hearts. “Where are you going?” To what and to whom will you give your life?
I remember the first time the Lord asked me that question. It was a Monday afternoon, the day after I received Confirmation, while I was riding home from school on the bus. That was the first time it dawned on me that the Lord might be calling me to a priest … but that was only the beginning. Once I had some idea that the Lord had given me a priestly vocation, I had to pray about and begin discussing it with others, including my parents, parish priests, teachers and friends. They told me that I should be open to whatever God wanted me to do with my life.
On a few occasions, a neighbor brought my friends and me to a nearby seminary, so that we could get some idea of what priestly formation was all about. Back then, we didn’t call it a Quo Vadis day, but that’s what it was. In any event, the Lord kept asking me, “Where are you going” and eventually I went to the seminary and have served happily as a priest for 43 years.
Whoever Does the Will of My Heavenly Father
So the question, “quo vadis,” “where are you going,” is really all about being open, receptive to God’s will for our lives, and then doing God’s will once we know what he is asking of us. Well, if that’s what these Quo Vadis days are all about, then we couldn’t have a better Gospel passage than the one we just heard.
Imagine it: Jesus is speaking before a large crowd of people. What he has to say is terribly important and people are hanging on his every word. In the middle of his talk, his mother and his relatives show up. Someone interrupts Jesus to tell him that his mother and cousins have arrived and want to speak with him. I’ve often wondered how I’d react if I were giving a homily in a crowded church, and, in the middle of the homily, Mom showed up, asking to speak to me. I’d probably say, “Not now, Mom, I’m pretty busy…I’ll call you later!”
But Jesus doesn’t do anything like that. Instead, he says something very important for you to hear on Quo Vadis. He asks, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers? … Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, sister, and mother.” Don’t think for a moment that Jesus was putting down his Mother Mary, for no one was more aligned with God’s will than she was. But he’s telling us that if we want to be his brother, then we must be ready, willing, and able to do the will of God. And this is precisely what Quo Vadis is all about. It’s about seeking and discovering God’s will for your life and then, with God’s help, accepting his will and acting on it. This includes your vocation in life and the distinct possibility that God might be calling you to the holy priesthood. Thank you for your openness to God’s will! May he show you the way!
The Need for Priests
When considering a priestly vocation, one thing to think about is the need we have for good priests. In today’s Old Testament reading from the prophet Micah, the prophet prays out loud to the Lord: “Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance!” Micah goes on to praise God for his compassion and mercy. He thanks God for his readiness to forgive the sins of his people and for his faithfulness to his promise of salvation.
Most of you listening to me are in high school and I hope you don’t yet have the weight of the world on our shoulders. But I think you already know enough about the world and its problems to recognize that a lot of people carry heavy burdens. They need shepherds, good shepherds, after the mind and heart of Christ, good and holy priests who enable them to meet Jesus, the Good Shepherd. People need priests to share with them the wisdom of God’s Word, priests who will lead them to share in Christ’s sacrifice of love, priests who will feed them with the Lord’s Body and Blood, and priests who share with them the forgiveness Jesus won for us.
As I mentioned earlier, I have been a priest 43 years and it brings me more joy than ever to celebrate Holy Mass or to hear a confession, or to anoint a person who is seriously ill, or simply to help someone find their way back to the Church. If God is calling you to the priesthood, I hope that, in his grace, you will say “yes.”
Thanks again for participating in Quo Vadis and may God bless you and keep you always in his love!