Home: Nursery of Vocations
23rd Sunday in OT

Al Cariño
Reproduced with Permission

Most if not all dioceses in the Philippines have a Vocation Month. In the Archdiocese of Cotabato it is September. During this period, vocation talks are given and exhibits presented in parish churches and schools to make the faithful aware of the three kinds of vocations from which to choose their way of serving the Lord--the single, the married, and the religious or priestly life.

In the second reading (Rom 13:8-10), St. Paul says, “The commandments… are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Then he adds, “Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.” Thus at the heart of every Christian vocation is love.

Jesus applies this commandment of love to fraternal correction (Mt. 18:15-20): "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother." Though only the first step, this is already difficult to do as we may be faulted of intruding into another person's affairs. If this fails, then we are to submit him before two or three others. If this still fails, we are to bring him before the Christian community whose decision is final. With this three-step prescription, Jesus wants His followers to do everything in their power to effect reconciliation so that harmony and love will prevail among themselves and within their Christian community.

Along this line, we have one defect which needs to be pointed out: we accept responsibility to care for our neighbor but limit it to his material needs. We are willing to give him food to satisfy his hunger, clothes to keep him warm, etc. But when it comes to assisting someone in his moral and spiritual needs, we say: "Off limits! That is none of our business." Or if we do anything at all, it is to talk about the person with others rather than directly with him. Obviously, this does not help him at all. Worse, it makes the evil he has done become public knowledge.

Perhaps we are hesitant to carry out this Christian responsibility because we feel that we ourselves have our own weaknesses and faults. If this were the case, then no parent can correct his children, no teacher can straighten out a troublesome student, no judge can pass a sentence, no priest can advise a penitent. But the issue here is not about who is morally upright but about being a caring person to one another. And this because of the realization that a person's spiritual integrity is just as important - if not more so - as his physical well-being.

Who will carry out this ministry of reconciliation, the fraternal correction that Jesus calls for? All of us. However, in a community of faith, some members are chosen not only to teach love but also to "spend" their lives witnessing to God's love in the service of others and bringing about reconciliation and unity--the religious men and women, and priests.

As true of other virtues, love is not learned; rather, it is caught. It is therefore imperative that every home be a nursery of love--between spouses, between parents and children, and among the children themselves. If in such a home only the language of love is used both in words and deeds, then when there are chores to be done, every one pitches in, making the work much lighter. When misunderstandings arise among the children, they settle it among themselves as they know their parents do--though away from them. The one and only concern of all is for harmony, peace and love to prevail in the home.

Such a home easily becomes a garden where the seed of vocation is sown and sprouts. For after all, the call to the religious or priestly life is nothing more than a call to service in love of the larger community.

Though the home as the nursery of vocations is of primary importance, the Christian community has also a big role in fostering vocations to the religious or priestly life. Often, a young person may be thinking of becoming a religious or priest and remains just that--"thinking of". Yet the history of the Church is replete with young people who have become religious or priests because the Christian community has not only singled them out as possessing the needed qualifications but also encouraged them to act accordingly. Through the community's urging, the "thinking of" has become a "responding to" God's call. The Church is now under siege because of the charges of sexual abuse against some members of the clergy. This has already scandalized many among the faithful. Thus if there is any time that the Church needs more vocations, it is now. As a caring and praying community, let us pray the Lord of the Harvest to call young men and women to be at the service of the Church in love so that she may come out not only purified but stronger after this storm has blown over.