Greek historians tell the story of how young Xenophon met Socrates. They met in a narrow road. Socrates prevented the young man from passing by him and began to ask him where he could by different things, where they were made… Xenophon answered and gave him all the necessary information. Then Socrates asked him: “Do you know where men are made good and virtuous?” Xenophon replied: “No.” Socrates said to him: “Follow me and learn.”
In the gospel today we hear Jesus use those very words: “Come after me” – in other gospels we hear “follow me”… He calls the fisherman to be His companions. I found it interesting that St. Matthew notes that Jesus was “walking by” – it makes it sound like He was just out for a stroll… But as the scene plays St. Matthew gives us the impression as if Jesus was looking for them, seeking them out… He was on mission to find them. This was not just a fortuitous meeting. It was purposeful. He is on the search for those who will aid Him in His mission of redemption. Furthermore, that which is striking is that these men get up and follow Him – immediately… No hesitation … no delay … With just as much determination as Jesus calling out for them, they respond and follow.
What is it about this Jesus? It is not unreasonable for us to think that these guys knew who Jesus was … they would have at least seen Him or heard of Him. St. John’s Gospel gives us evidence of that – St. Andrew brings Simon-Peter to Jesus. This man whom they had seen before… This time it was different. It was not a simple encounter. No, it was one in which He looked into their souls. They saw in Him, in that moment, not just someone worth following, but who they could become – who they were meant to be … They saw in Him everything…
Friends, today in the Diocese of Springfield we have 2 seminarians as well as 2 in application. We are definitely in a better spot now than we were 2 years ago and yet, it is not enough. The Church here in Western Mass still needs priests. But there is good news … while we are on the upswing with regard to men desiring priesthood the fact remains that God doesn’t stop looking for the next generation of priests to carry on His mission… Just like He did that day on the shores of the Sea of Galilee as He called the first Apostles, He does not stop searching with purpose and determination to find those whom He chooses to be priests…. He doesn’t stop calling them … Jesus continues His mission of salvation through the priests He chooses. We need to help them hear God’s call. We need to bring them to the altar of the Lord to encounter Him in the Eucharist … that like the Apostles, in such an encounter with Lord, they will respond to Him – “and they got up and followed Him.”
Friends, never give up on your prayer for vocations to the priesthood. Never give up on your sons and grandsons by being examples of faith for them in this world. How we live our faith means something. It means something for young women as well who are called to religious life. Our prayer, our example, our encouragement – how we live our faith matters because you never know who might be listening, watching, or just simply in need of a push in the right direction… Lets push them toward Jesus, so that they may encounter Him and possibly answer His call to become the next priests of our diocese.