Sanctification: Purpose

Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Introduction – Over the last couple of weeks now, we have been reflecting on this idea of sanctification. Our series began with the celebration of the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. It was a day that we recalled Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. It was through that event that Jesus’ identity as the Beloved Son of God is revealed when the voice of the Father came thundering down to earth and the Spirit descended in the form of a dove. Likewise, it is through our baptisms that we, too, are claimed as the beloved sons and daughters of God; that is our true identity and the starting point for embracing the fullness of the Christian life.

Last week, we turned our attention to our mission of striving to achieve the fullness of that Christian life. All of us are invited to seek holiness – in other words, following the will of God in every aspect of our lives. The Church says that is our primary vocation. We reflected on how Jesus asked the disciples the question: what are you looking for? It is the same question that He poses to us. It was an invitation to reflect on our lives and to examine whether we are searching for meaning and purpose in God. If we continually strive to do that, we will all be brought to sanctification and, in the end, gain the reward of Heaven.

That now brings us to our last topic of the Sanctification series – focusing on our purpose.

God Created Our Hearts – One of the central beliefs of our faith is that all of us were created in the image and likeness of God. Because of that, as I mentioned in my homily last weekend, we all have imprinted on our hearts this desire to do God’s will, to strive for holiness and dive more deeply into relationship with the Father. In other words, God has created our hearts perfectly to follow the plan He has laid out for us, to accomplish a specific purpose, to perform a certain task, to take on a distinct role that will bring Him glory. Every single one of us has been offered a unique calling, a vocation, something that the Lord has given us specifically to fulfill. In our readings today, we have four examples of responses to vocations, responses to this invitation from God to fulfill a specific purpose.

Example of Jonah – In our first reading from the Book of Jonah, we have the story of people in the ancient metropolis of Nineveh who were living sinful lives: “lives full of pleasures and noise, maybe even full of popularity and great achievements but empty of meaning and lasting happiness. That’s what happens when people rebel against God’s plans and the moral law that he built into human nature.”[1] But yet, God’s heart is moved with pity and he sends the people of Nineveh a prophet, Jonah, who wakes them up, puts them back on the path of God’s plan, and restores them to walking in the ways of the Lord. Jonah’s words bring the people to recognize their sinfulness and their need to turn back to God. Had Jonah not had the courage to respond to what the Lord was placing on his heart, had he not embraced what the Lord had called him to, Nineveh would have been destroyed.

Example of St. Paul – In our second reading, we see St. Paul challenging the Christian community in Corinth to recognize the need for detachment from the things of the world. For the early Christians, no one knew when the Lord was going to return. They believed that Jesus would be returning soon, so there was a sense of urgency to their conversion. Paul was the instrument that the Lord wanted to use to make that message known. Had he not responded to that invitation, the Corinthians likely would have reverted to their previous ways of life, falling away from fully committing themselves to being disciples of Christ.

Example of Jesus – Today our Gospel passage comes from Mark. The first half of Mark’s Gospel describes Jesus’ ministry of healing and preaching in Galilee. In the section that we read today, we hear the beginning of that public ministry. Another aspect of Jesus’ particular purpose is revealed to us – preaching the Gospel of God, sharing with others the Good News and calling them to conversion and repentance. It is through that preaching that the first disciples are brought into an intimate encounter with the Lord; it’s how they are brought into relationship with Jesus. It is through that relationship that Jesus reveals to them their own vocations. He calls them, saying: “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Example of the Disciples – The first disciples are able to respond to that invitation from the Lord in such a radical way because Jesus had already established relationships with them. We know this from what the Gospel of John teaches us. Those relationships likely began with Simon, Andrew, James, and John standing in the crowds listening to Jesus speak at various moments. They likely all admired Him. His message likely resonated with all of them in some way. They knew that He was the real deal. And so, when Jesus comes to call them, they are ready to respond.

He calls them because he wants to give them more meaning, purpose, and, ultimately, happiness. He wants to bring them into his Kingdom. Jesus already knows what is to come and so He wants to pick those who will continue to preach the Gospel, those who will work to ensure that the Kingdom of God will spread on earth even after His death and resurrection.

Jesus sees us in the same way. He wants to do the same with us. He is calling us to preach the Gospel and to make the Kingdom of God present in our world today.

Our Vocations – Each and every day, the Lord invites us to follow him; he invites us to dedicate our lives to the service of his Church and the proclamation of the Gospel. God has placed on each of our hearts a specific purpose to fulfill, a vocation to accept that will allow us to be the most authentic version of ourselves, a vocation that will help us achieve personal sanctification. For most that vocation manifests in serving as mothers and fathers, raising your children in the practice of the faith and sharing the Gospel at home. It also means proclaiming the Good News in your workplaces and in your day-to-day activities. Yet, there are others who are being called to be set apart from amongst the community for dedicated service to the Church. There are some who are called to be priests, deacons, religious brothers and sisters, or even consecrated virgins.

Vocations Crisis or Listening Crisis? – People often say that we have a vocations crisis in the Church because of the lack of priests or religious serving our parishes and schools. We don’t have a vocations crisis – God is still calling the same number of men and women to serve in those roles. The problem we are experiencing in the Church is a listening crisis. Men and women aren’t hearing the Lord calling them to those vocations. That needs to change.

Foster Deeper Sense of Listening – We have to develop and foster a deeper sense of listening. In order to do that, we have to be in relationship with Jesus. But the only way we can foster that relationship is by getting to know Him, believing who He is, and allowing Him to draw us closer toward Him in love. Read about Him in Scripture. Spend time with Him in silent prayer and adoration. Talk to Him about the things you experience. Share with Him where you’re struggling. Listen to Him speak to you in the songs you hear, the things people say to you, the beauty of nature. He’s all around us, we just have to tune into Him.

Conclusion – All of us have been called by God to fulfill a specific purpose and that purpose is what will most help us achieve sanctification and holiness. Our mission is to listen to the Lord and discern what that purpose is supposed to be. This week, let’s ask the Lord for the grace to be able to listen to Him more attentively. Ask Him to tune our ears to His voice. If we continue to allow Him into our hearts, He will show us how we are supposed to serve Him. Are we open to what that purpose might be?

[1] ePriest, “God is Calling Out to Each One of Us,” Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B.

Published by Fr. Tom Pringle

Priest of the Diocese of Orlando. Parochial Vicar at Holy Family Catholic Church, Orlando.

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