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THE PRIESTLY AND RELIGIOUS VOCATION AND THE CONTEMPLATIVE LIFE
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Thursday, 5th Week of Easter, May 10, 2012
Acts 15:7-21, Ps. 95, John 15:9-11


"We believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will" (Acts 15:11).


This is what St. Peter said in the council in Jerusalem, namely that God saves the Gentiles in the same way that he saved the Jews who believed in Jesus, that is, not by their observance of the Law of Moses, but rather through their faith in Jesus Christ. St. Paul says the same: "There is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him. For, ‘every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved'" (Rom. 10:12-13). We are saved through our faith in Jesus Christ, through the merits of his death on the cross.


But today we also hear Jesus' teaching that if we want to abide in his love, which is the Father's love, we must keep his commandments, as Jesus kept his Father's commandments and remained in his love. "Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love" (John 15:9-10). And we know that Jesus has two great commandments: to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31).


There is more than one way of doing this. There are various states in life. One can do this in the world, or by renouncing the world. The more radical way is to renounce the world and literally live for God alone in every aspect of our life, sacrificing marriage, family, home, and all the pleasures of the world so as not to divide the love of our heart in any way, but rather to love God with a completely undivided heart, with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength (Mark 12:30). This radical way is the religious, priestly, clerical, celibate, and monastic life.


In our day, in certain countries, there is a great crisis of vocations to this type of life. I therefore believe that in our day we need to emphasize the importance and dignity of this type of life. Jesus blesses this type of life more, a hundred times more. "Every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life" (Matt. 19:29). St. Luke's version of this saying of Jesus includes also the renunciation of wife (Luke 18:29). This is the way of losing our life in this world to find it and save it with God (Mark 8:35).


But even within the priestly and religious life there are those who try to live it still more literally, still more radically, in that they not only renounce marriage in order to love God with an undivided heart, but they also renounce all the unnecessary pleasures of the world as well, for these too divide the heart so that we do not live for God alone and do not find all our happiness only in him, to the degree that this is possible in this life. They, therefore, also renounce the other pleasures and entertainments of the world, such as succulent food, delicacies, movies, etc., in order to find all their happiness only in God. It is this most radical kind of life that receives the greatest reward and that normally abides most completely in the love of Christ. If I wish to live a contemplative life and if I feel called to such a life, this is the way for me.

 

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