Call to Holiness

In 13 Today's Church on 2017/03/17 at 12:00 AM


  • If you’ve ever visited the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, perhaps you’ve noticed the great marble relief that adorns the very back wall of the Great Upper Church.
  • It is entitled The Universal Call to Holiness, and it is a representation of Paragraph 40 from Lumen Gentium, the second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.
  • This very important paragraph states: “All Christians in any state of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of love, and by this holiness a more human manner of life is fostered also in earthly society.”
  • At the center of this relief is the Holy Spirit, emanating rays of holy light. And below Him are our Lady and many other people from all walks of life moving toward the light radiating from the Holy Spirit.
  • Incidentally, this beautiful relief was carved by the same folks who carved our marble altar and installed our marble floor here in the sanctuary of the church.
  • But what’s most important about this relief is that it makes clear that whatever our vocation in life may be, whether priesthood, religious life, married life, or the single life, all of us are called, by reason of our baptism as Christians, to a life of holiness and Christian discipleship.
  • All of us are called to serve the Lord through our vocation. Thus, it is of grave importance that we do our best to discern our proper vocation so that we may fulfill God’s will. For doing God’s will is the best way to grow in holiness, and in the long-run, it is the only thing that will ever truly satisfy the longings of our human hearts.
  • But doing God’s will, being a true disciple of Christ is often very challenging. At times it may seem like our Lord is calling us to do something that is beyond our capacity or natural abilities. Sometimes we feel unworthy of the call our Lord has placed before us.
  • Our readings today give us three examples of men who realized their unworthiness in the face of God’s will. In the first reading we hear Isaiah state: “For I am a man of unclean lips living among a people of unclean lips”
  • And in the second reading St. Paul makes the declaration: “For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle.” And lastly we hear St. Peter ask our Lord to depart from him, because he realizes what a sinful man he is.
  • Nonetheless, each one of these biblical characters is a good role model for us. Why? Because each one says “yes” to God even though they felt unworthy to do what He asked of them. Isaiah, St. Paul, and St. Peter were all willing to allow God’s grace to transform them.
  • In addition to telling us today the stories of these three men being called by God, our readings today also tell us of the qualifications, if you will, for Christian discipleship. In essence, they provide some guidance for us on how to prepare to follow our Lord.
  • In the first reading from the prophet Isaiah, we are told of the need to be pure in the sight of the Lord, for purity is a virtue that prepares us to do God’s work. In fact, as the Beatitudes teach us, those who are clean of heart are blessed for they will see God.
  • Thus, we should all strive to embrace and live out the virtues of chastity and modesty. We must embrace the virtue of temperance so that we might be in control of our passions rather than allowing our passions to control us.
  • And from a more universal perspective, we can see in this call to purity a call to cut out everything from our life that is displeasing to God, especially any mortal sins. This is one of the first and most important steps for true growth in the spiritual life.
  • From the second reading we learn that in order to serve our Lord as His disciples, we must have faith in the Gospel. St. Paul encourages the people of Corinth to “hold fast to the word” that he has preached.
  • So, we too, must hold fast to our Catholic faith, believing in the Gospel as a means to our salvation, and living out the Gospel message so that we might draw others to the Lord.
  • Then, from the Gospel story today we learn first that we must be willing to take risks and to put out into deep water. We learn that we must be willing to be obedient to our Lord, doing what He asks of us, even if it goes against our own judgment.
  • Since we do not enjoy the luxury St. Peter had in having our Lord physically present so that we can communicate with him as we do with one another, we must rely on the teachings of the Church, the advice of our spiritual leaders, and the inspirations of the Holy Spirit when it comes to following our Lord’s will.
  • In addition to teaching us the need for risk-taking and obedience, St. Peter also models for us the importance of humbling ourselves and asking for mercy for our sins if we wish to serve our Lord well.
  • Despite our best intentions, we will always be subject to sin in this life. There will be times when we fall. And when those times come, like Peter, we must humbly ask our Lord to forgive us so that we may be reconciled fully to Him.
  • Lastly, today’s Gospel teaches us that following God’s will and being His disciple will often require sacrifice. Just as the apostles left everything to follow Christ, ultimately, we too must be willing to forsake all else to follow our Lord.
  • At the heart of all of this must be a willingness to love God above all else. Last week I spoke about the primacy of charity and of living a life of love in all respects. But whatever love we have must begin with a love for God. We must love Him first of all and above all.
  • The beautiful thing is that when we do, when we make our Lord the highest priority of our lives, then all of these other things that we must do to follow Him: being pure, having faith in the Gospel, taking risks and being obedient, humbling ourselves and being contrite for our sins, and having a willingness to sacrifice, all become possible for us.
  • But keep in mind, my friends, that becoming holy and preparing for discipleship is not something God expects us to do on our own! It is a process in which we cooperate with God. God is continually giving each of us the grace we need to become holy.
  • Our job is simply to cooperate with this grace! And we cooperate with and make use of God’s grace through prayer, through frequent reception of the sacraments, and by loving Him above all else.
  • The point is this: it doesn’t matter who you are, what you do for a living, or what sins you’ve committed in your life: God is calling you to a life of holiness.
  • No one gets a pass on this. All of us called to holiness. On Judgment Day it will be the standard by which we are measured.
  • The good news is that God wants to help you become holy. He will give us all the grace we need. But at times this process will not be easy.
  • There will be times when our Lord will ask you do things that you do not want to do. Like Peter and the disciples, there will times when He asks you to “put out into deep water” as He did in today’s Gospel.
  • But remember what happened to Peter and the disciples when they did as Jesus asked and lowered their nets into the deep water: they caught an abundance of fish, more than they could handle!
  • So let us trust Jesus and learn to respond to His call, knowing that He will reward our faithfulness…if not in this life, then certainly in the next!

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio .
To enable the audio, please go directly to Fr. Reid’s homily homilies and select the matching date.

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