On this Sunday, we celebrate Mothers Day and honour our mothers, living and deceased, in a variety of ways – through our prayers, blessings and loving wishes, expressions of gratitude and special gifts, and a myriad of other thoughtful gestures. Invariably mothers model the generous ideals we associate with discipleship and a sense of ministry.
Appropriately, today is also known as Good Shepherd Sunday where we recall fondly the patient, pastoral care and total love of Jesus – his ‘motherly’ qualities. Traditionally the World Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving for Vocations, this day is about our personal vocation. Every Christian is called to discipleship, some are called to ministry.
Recently, I spent time with 5 young people preparing for entry into religious life. Focus was the Eucharist and a highlight was a most engaging conversation about the Church and the Eucharist, particularly Pope Francis’ teaching about the kind of Church we are called to be:
‘The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open. One concrete sign of such openness is that our church doors should always be open, so that if someone, moved by the Spirit, comes there looking for God, he or she will not find a closed door (The Joy of the Gospel n 46).’
The Holy Father, in his often disarming way, reassures us that the Church is not a tollhouse but the house of the Father. Discipleship and ministry only make sense in a setting of welcome.
Family life thrives where there is that sense of being ‘at home’, a spirit encouraged by the warm hospitality of Mums and Dads – a reflection of the ‘domestic church’, Church in the Family. We all need to belong, to feel welcome in our family, parish and wider community.
Our churches were full on Easter Sunday; people were happy to be here, to rejoice in and share the energy and joy of Easter. While we expect men and women to be available to minister to us, something the Augustinians expect to do in North Harbour for many years to come, the reality is many of our priests are ageing and fewer men are embracing this vocation.
Vocations do not come out of a vacuum but need to be nurtured and encouraged within the family. How many families are prepared to do this? In this difficult time, we may feel confused or reluctant to show too much interest. A vocation is God’s work and we must discern and accept any stirring of a Christian vocation within ourselves and encourage it in others. Feeling welcome and at home in the Christian community is essential.
Welcome means simply that! We extend welcome to one another in our words, tone of voice, smile, and in our body language and our attentiveness both to those we know and those we don’t know. My call is to the priesthood and religious life and I would happily recommend it to others. Each of us has to answer the vocation question for him/herself – sometimes more than once in our lives – and embrace our vocation of being married, single or religious.
Our call to ministry comes from our Baptism, the sacrament of welcome and equality as Christians who enrich the Body of Christ. You may find the following reflection helpful….
May this door always be open…
To those who enter,
To those who have remained loyal and faithful through the years,
To those who come to celebrate in community,
To those who come to celebrate their special events,
To those who are lonely, grieving and needing comfort,
To those who have been hurt by the Church or any of its members,
To those who feel cut off from our community,
To those whose burdens have become too heavy,
To those whose lives are in turmoil,
To visitors, strangers, refugees.
May the people of this community always be as welcoming as this open door…