Saturday before Epiphany; Discernment Retreat

I. Introduction

A. Dear brother priests, dear sisters, dear friends and discerners: I’m glad to join all of you who are making this discernment retreat and to offer Holy Mass with and for you during these days when, in a very special way, you seek the will of God in your lives. In particular, I thank the Lord for your openness to the distinct possibility that God may be calling you to serve Him and His Church as priests.

B. Seeking God’s will, of course, is not something we do on our own. God’s will is often not identical with our preferences. His plans for our lives are often at odds with our plans. And the objections we raise are not God’s objections but ours. So it is that you and I ask the Holy Spirit to open our hearts to the Word of God, for it is by listening attentively to God’s Word that we are able to sort out the conflicting influences in our lives and all the complexities we create, so as to discover God’s will and to do his will, for, “in his will is our peace” (Dante). With that in mind, let us now turn to the Scripture readings just proclaimed.

II. I John 5:14-21

A. . . . beginning with the reading from the First Letter of St. John. From that letter I want to extract a few points for you to pray about today:

B. The reading begins with these words, “We have this confidence in God . . .” Let’s start there – confidence in God. We search for God’s will because we have confidence in God. This confidence was planted in our hearts at baptism when we received in embryonic form the virtues of faith, hope, and love. As we journey through life we need to develop those virtues by prayer through which we learn, like Mary, to trust in God’s promise to redeem us in his love.

C. In turn, our confidence in God shapes our prayer, for John goes on to say that, “if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” So when we pray “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is heaven…” and then apply that prayer directly to our vocational discernment – we may be certain that the Lord will hear and answer our prayer.

D. Let me mention another point from today’s first reading . . . John writes: “We also know that the Son of God has come and has given us discernment to know the one who is true.” Discernment itself is not in the first instance our work but God’s gift to us. It is guided by the Holy Spirit and leads us to know and love Christ as Savior and Lord. As we grow in love of Jesus, we want to be like him and so we grow to love his will. This prompts us to begin casting out of our lives our hidden idols, including plans and activities, good in themselves, that we may be using as substitutes for God’s will.

III. John 2:1-11

A. And this brings us to today’s Gospel, the Wedding Feast of Cana. Like the Lord’s Birth, like his Epiphany, like his Baptism in the Jordan River, the wedding feast of Cana was one of those mysterious events in which Christ was made manifest as the Savior of the world.

B. It all begins innocently enough – the Blessed Mother recognizes a need. The newly married couple’s nuptials are about to go awry for want of wine. Mary, prompted by the Holy Spirit, asks her Son to intervene. And to tell you the truth, the Lord himself seems a bit reluctant: “How does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” Now, let’s stop the train right there. How many people discerning a vocation will say, “I’m open to a priestly vocation but perhaps at a later time when things are settled in my life.” In other words, my hour to say ‘yes’ to the Lord has not yet come!

C. Jesus must have known what would come next. Mary didn’t argue with Jesus; she just instructed the waiters, “Do whatever he tells you.” With that, Jesus reveals his hidden glory by changing water into wine. Here is another good place for us to pause and reflect. When we are tempted to defer, perhaps indefinitely, answering God’s call, be assured that the Blessed Mother will be with you pulling in the opposite direction. Just as Mary saw the newly married couple’s need for help, so too, as Mother of the Church, Mary sees the needs of God’s people, especially their need for holy and devoted shepherds, good parish priests. She who was completely attuned to God’s will in her life wants us, her children, to be attuned to God’s will in our lives. So don’t leave Mary out of your discernment. Say the Rosary slowly and prayerfully during this discernment retreat, asking the Blessed Mother to help you not only to find God’s will but indeed to embrace his will with courage & joy, despite our questions & concerns.

D. Now let us extend the Cana story into the present day. At this moment, we are taking part in a wedding feast – that’s what Holy Mass is – the Wedding Feast between the Christ the Bridegroom and His Bride, the Church. Here the really good wine can be found for at the Consecration of the Mass it is not water that is changed into wine but wine that is changed into the Blood of Christ shed for the forgiveness of sins. It is the deepest joy and glory of the priest to effect this change not by his own power but because of glory of Christ working in and through him. As you well know, celebrating Mass is not the only thing that the priest does but it is the heart and soul of everything else he does all day long. I’ve offered Mass for nearly forty years – in beautiful cathedrals and humble churches, before thousands of people all at once and in the presence of one or two others. I’ve offered Mass on days I was at the top of my form and days when I wasn’t – but I can tell you this: every day I am absorbed, amazed & overjoyed by this mystery.

IV. Conclusion

A. So thanks again for coming. I’m offering this Holy Mass for you, for your discernment, for your vocation. I’m praying simply that you will welcome the Holy Spirit’s activity in your hearts, that you will allow the Spirit to help you open your hearts to the will of Christ and that you will find peace and joy in doing so.

B. I also want to thank the All Saints Sisters for welcoming us so warmly and above all for praying with us and for us today. Discernment is not only between God and you it also a concern of the whole Church and their prayers for us today represent the concern of the whole Church to whom the Lord promised to send shepherds. Thank you, Sisters, for your witness and for your prayers.

C. May God bless us all and keep us always in his love.

Archbishop William E. Lori

Archbishop William E. Lori was installed as the 16th Archbishop of Baltimore May 16, 2012.

Prior to his appointment to Baltimore, Archbishop Lori served as Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., from 2001 to 2012 and as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington from 1995 to 2001.

A native of Louisville, Ky., Archbishop Lori holds a bachelor's degree from the Seminary of St. Pius X in Erlanger, Ky., a master's degree from Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg and a doctorate in sacred theology from The Catholic University of America. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Washington in 1977.

In addition to his responsibilities in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Archbishop Lori serves as Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus and is the former chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.