1. Years ago, when I was a young priest, there was a young man in the parish I was assigned to. He was interested in becoming a priest. He had all the signs of a priestly vocation. He was talented, had many friends, and related to everyone extremely well. Everyone, including a lot of young people in the parish, thought he should become a priest. There was just one problem. He didn’t think he was worthy. He was so much in awe of the priesthood, he couldn’t really believe God was calling him to be a priest. Years later, I met him. He’s successful and reasonably happy but there’s a big hole in his life- he told me he knows deep down he should have become a priest.
2. It’s the oldest trick in the devil’s book. Just when young people like you start getting serious about their faith and really think about what it means to a follower, a disciple of Jesus Christ – just when young people start asking themselves what God wants them to do with their lives – the devil, the Father of Lies, moves in, & maybe with some human helpers, plants the seed of doubt… It’s not that we doubt God exists or anything specific that the Church teaches. What the devil and his co-workers want us to doubt is that God really loves us, that God has a special place for each of us in his hearts, that God is kind and merciful, that God has something special in mind for each one of us.
• “You want to follow Jesus and be his disciple? – Who are you kidding,” the devil says! “You’re not worthy to follow in the footsteps of Jesus! Just be like everyone else.”
• “You want to be a stand up leader who knows and loves the faith and shares it with others?” “Really? With all your sins and problems? Sit down and be quiet!”
• “You think you’re called to a priest or a religious?” “You want to have a truly Christian marriage?” “You want to serve the poor or help other people in their journey through life?” “Just who do you think you are?” “You’re not worthy to do any of that!” “Forget about it!” “Make some money!” “Have a good time!” “Life is short!”
3. We’re not the only one’s this has happened to. Think about today’s Scripture readings.
• Centuries before Christ was born, God called Isaiah to be a prophet – He was called to deliver God’s Word to the people of Israel at a difficult time in their history. What did Isaiah say at first? “Woe is me! I am an unclean man living among an unclean people!” “Lord – I’m not worthy, send someone else!”
• How about St. Peter, when he hauled ashore the miraculous catch of fish? The one Jesus called to lead his Apostles said to Jesus, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man!” “You’ve got the wrong guy! Pick someone else!”
• Then, there’s St. Paul, who persecuted Christians until he was knocked off his horse by Jesus. He could never have imagined Jesus wanted him to spread the Gospel far and wide.
4. What do these three have in common? They let God take care of their unworthiness. They let God love them. God’s love purified Isaiah’s heart. Instead of saying to God, “Woe is me!” he said, “Here I am, send me!” St. Peter let Jesus forgive him, professed his love for Jesus 3 times, and went on to feed his lambs and his sheep. St. Paul let the Risen Lord change his life, 180 degrees! Instead of being a persecutor, he became an Apostle. “Thanks be to God,” he says to us today, “I am what I am!”
5. It happened to me. I wanted to be a priest ever since I can remember but as I got older I doubted my vocation. A wonderful priest who is still living took me aside, talked to be about God’s love, and saved my vocation.
6. You’re here at Mt. 2000 because God has touched your heart. Many of you went to confession this weekend. Many of you prayed maybe as you’ve never prayed before. You’ve met our amazing seminarians. You’ve been with lots of other young people who love the Lord and want to live their faith. Here’s something I hope you’ll take home with you from Mount 2000: God loves you personally. His mercy is powerful. It overcomes our sins and can change us. Let his mercy touch your life. If you are truly convinced God loves you deeply, personally, and everlastingly – your life won’t be the same. You’ll be that disciple and that leader that embraces whatever vocation God has in mind for you. Like Isaiah, you’ll never say woe is me! Instead you’ll say, “Here I am! Send me!”
God bless you and keep you always in his love!