God’s Mercy and the Culture of Vocations

Father James Wilcox

North Texas Catholic

2/22/2016

My dad is a golfer. When my brother and I were young, my dad enjoyed taking us to the course and teaching us to play. First to the driving range, then a little time to practice putting, and, eventually, nine holes of golf. While I enjoy golf (even in the midst of playing so poorly), as young kids, we were extremely fascinated with the golf cart. In one of these outings on the ninth hole, my brother and I were moving the golf cart. Upon leaving the cart, we forgot to lock the brake, and the cart rolled slowly down into a ditch. With Dad’s help, we tried to pull it out of the ditch but to no avail. It was stuck. 

We gathered our clubs and made the somber walk to the clubhouse. Without naming my brother and me as culprits, Dad explained simply that the cart was stuck in a ditch. The clubhouse manager was understanding — perhaps we were not the first to fall victim to the elusive ditch or to forget the brake. Even upon our return to the car and the drive home, Dad did not scold us for the error. We knew we had made an error, and we learned our lesson. In his way, he demonstrated mercy. 

Often we learn about God the Father from our own earthly father. Of course, we can attribute falsely the poor or painful actions from an earthly father to God the Father. However, once we are able to recognize that a good earthly father follows the example of God the Father (and not vice versa), we also see the attributes that are required for a good spiritual father in the priest.

This Jubilee Year of Mercy offers priests, seminarians, and those in discernment a focused look into the essential attribute of mercy for the people of God. First and foremost is recognizing that mercy is the work of God, and we priests are his instruments to bring forward reconciliation for people. We are able to seek examples of God’s mercy in Scripture, especially in the incarnation of Jesus Christ and his Gospel message. 

In praying the Liturgy of the Hours, priests, religious, seminarians, and lay faithful throughout the world pray Psalm 25, calling out for God’s mercy. “Remember your compassion and your mercy, O LORD, for they are ages old. Remember no more the sins of my youth; remember me according to your mercy, because of your goodness, LORD” (Psalm 25:6-7). The image of God remembering us in light of his mercy is a beautiful meditation, especially for those who are seeking to serve our brothers and sisters in priesthood and religious life. 

The discernment to priesthood is a discernment of the call of Jesus Christ, the manifestation and incarnation of the mercy of God in our lives. To truly live out the alter Christus, the priest is called to be an open vessel of mercy first. In response to God’s immense love, the priest lives out this mercy through a life dedicated to pursuit of holiness, salvation of souls, and proclamation of the Gospel. Pope Francis offers a beautiful image for the priest — the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.

Vocations to the priesthood are vocations to be men of mercy. We are called to serve the Lord as these bridges of hope for his people. Hearing the call of Jesus Christ is hearing the call to being a man of mercy: a man who sees as God sees; who views others with a merciful heart; who can look into the loving heart of the other and desire to move that heart into a deeper relationship with God. 

Being a man of mercy does not have to be a difficult task. However, it must be an intentional one. The priest must recognize his role as alter Christus and put the love of Christ into action in the lives of people. The men who seek to serve the Lord as priests musts be, above all, living signs of the Father’s readiness to welcome those in search of his pardon.

On that golf course many years ago, my brother and I felt horrible that we had caused a huge problem with the golf cart. My dad readily helped us know what it means to be a man of mercy. Dad made certain that we understood our mistake, while simultaneously demonstrating the love of a Father. 

As a diocese, we can continue our efforts to build a Culture of Vocations by seeking men of mercy to consider life as a priest. Pray for mercy. Pray for vocations. St. John Vianney, patron of priests, pray for us.

 

My dad is a golfer. When my brother and I were young, my dad enjoyed taking us to the course and teaching us to play. First to the driving range, then a little time to practice putting, and, eventually, nine holes of golf

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