January 8, 2010

Religious Vocations Supplement

‘Come and See’

By Fr. Eric Johnson (Director of the archdiocesan Office of Priestly and Religious Vocations)

Fr. Eric JohnsonAfter being invited to spend the day with Jesus, the Gospel of John tells us that Andrew immediately ran to his brother, Simon, and announced: “We have found the Messiah” (Jn 1:41). Andrew then brought his brother to Jesus, who looked upon him and named him Peter (Jn 1:37-42).

Similarly, Philip, who had just encountered Jesus in Galilee, found Nathaniel and told him: “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth” (Jn 1:45). When Nathaniel expressed doubt, Philip simply responded, “Come and see” (Jn 1:46). He did, and when he saw he answered: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel” (Jn 1:49).

Both of these encounters mark the beginnings of discipleship. In following Jesus, Peter and Nathaniel will witness his life and ministry, and come to find life through their faith in him. In time, they will be sent, discovering their own call to sacrificial love and service

What is interesting about these initial encounters, however, is that while they are deeply personal and unique, they are initiated by the action of another disciple. It is Andrew who first brings Peter to Jesus, and it is Philip who invites Nathaniel to “come and see.” Through these disciples—through their witness, joy and invitation—Peter and Nathaniel first encounter the person of Christ and are changed.

Our own encounter with Christ is much the same. So much of our experience of faith has been brought to us through the gift of others. Our lives have been filled with people of faith, men and women of the Church, who first spoke to us of Christ, who nurtured our gifts and whose faithful witness awakened within us a deeper longing for God. In their invitation, the Church fulfills her mission to draw others to Christ.

Of course, among those who have brought us this gift are our priests, deacons, and religious brothers and sisters. Through their lives and ministry, in many and varied ways, they remind us of the presence of God and call us to seek his face. In those most significant moments and in the simple routines of our daily lives, their unique presence among us turns us to look toward the person of Christ, who calls us, saves us and heals us.

In pointing to Christ, priests, deacons, and religious brothers and sisters invite us to deeper vocational discernment as well. In their own response to God’s call, they witness to the importance of listening. In joyfully and gratefully living a life of sacrificial love, service and ministry, they invite us to “come and see” how we might be called. Their lives can attract us, and can help us to consider our own vocation to love and service.

They, after all, were themselves once invited. They too heard the voice of others that encouraged them to “come and see.” Behind the great variety among priests, deacons and religious is the common witness to the person of Christ and the commitment to serve others by pointing to him.

This supplement contains some of their stories. Each is unique and, together, they represent a range of experiences, responses and ministries. They are stories of vocation and of faith, and of generosity and joy. They are stories that afford us an opportunity to remember with gratitude the priests, deacons, and religious brothers and sisters who have been a part of our own lives of faith.

Perhaps in these stories we might also see the beginnings of our own discipleship. Perhaps they might encourage us to consider how God might be calling us to love and service, and how we might encourage others to “come and see.” †

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