|Votive Mass of Holy Apostles|
Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him. He appointed Twelve, whom he also named Apostles, that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons....
For as long as I can remember the Catholic Church has worried about the shortage of priests. In the Catholic grade school I learned of counties in Kentucky that had no Catholic churches and no priests. (I wasn't told they had no Catholics either.) Continually we have sought "religious and priestly vocations" among young men and women.
Unfortunately, there has been a popular presumption that the vocational journey begins with the candidate's desire. The initiative that sets the young man on the road to the priesthood is his. If he doesn't want it, it won't happen.
I knew a priest who, in his active retirement, during the papacy of Saint John Paul II, assisted resigning priests through the bureaucratic process. He discovered the single most important question to ask these men was, "Did you ever, in your seminary years, go to prayer and ask God, 'What do you want me to do?'"
They had not. They grabbed at the sacred brass ring of the priesthood. They pursued the prize their mothers and fathers, teachers and friends wanted for them; they enjoyed their years of disciplined camaraderie in the seminary; they delighted in the deference and respect shown to them by devout Catholics; they were grateful for the 4-f deferment from military service: it all worked out beautifully. They pursued the priesthood because they wanted it -- until they didn't.
Today's gospel describes how Jesus ascended the mountain and summoned those he wanted. He named them apostles and he sent them forth. Acting in obedience, they came to him. In fact, this translation says twice, "he appointed...."
The initiative is entirely the Lord's.
This applies as well to every Christian. Each of us must ask the Lord, "What do you want me to do?" There are many positions of leadership in the church, and even more positions of discipleship, where do you want me to go? There are many Christian denominations, to which should I belong? There are many local churches, to which are you sending me? There are many ways and styles of life, how should I behave?
Discerning one's service of the Lord certainly considers what I want and need, and how I feel about this or that opportunity. Because "grace builds on nature," it will consider one's abilities and aptitudes. It will usually ignore the outlandish or silly. But it must always ask, "Lord Jesus, my God and Savior and dearest friend, what do you want me to do?"
The day will certainly come when the Christian asks, "How did I get myself into this mess? Why am I failing time after time after time?" The answer will come, "Because I sent you there. And I have no regrets!"