January 13, 2012

Religious Vocations Supplement

Seeking God above all things

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

At the conclusion of the sixth chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew, Jesus speaks about being dependent on God. His words are spoken to a people whose hearts are filled with the cares and anxieties of daily living, and whose attention is fixed on how they are to acquire security, plan for the future, obtain sustenance and shelter themselves.

Jesus reminds the people that life is more than food and drink. He tells them that their heavenly Father knows each of them intimately, is aware of their needs and cares deeply for them. He then says, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you besides” (Mt 6:33).

In doing so, Jesus calls those listening to him not to allow the experience of worry and anxiety to crowd out the place of God in their minds, hearts and actions.

Jesus’ teaching seems all the more relevant to us today. Our lives are often so full, so hectic and so weighed down with responsibility. In our daily lives, there are so many demands, obligations and uncertainties that can pull at us, occupy us and fill us with anxiety.

It can be easy to become consumed with our immediate concerns and lose sight of the Kingdom. Our hearts and minds can become crowded as we brood over work, strained relationships, difficulties and an uncertain future. It is tempting to give in to focusing all of our thoughts and energy on these things, to let go of prayer and silence, and to fail to appreciate the needs and relationships that surround us.

Part of the difficulty is our tendency to view God’s call as one obligation among many, and to see our relationship with him as one of any number of relationships. Such a way of perceiving things, however, places our relationship with God in competition with our other relationships. It fosters within us a tendency to see God’s invitation to the Kingdom as something that needs to be balanced against the other demands in our lives.

Christ’s command to seek first the Kingdom of God reminds us that this is not so. It echoes his words to Martha: “You are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing” (Lk 10:41-42).

Our relationship with God is not simply one of many, but the relationship that should define all others. Seeking the Kingdom is not simply another obligation, but the pursuing of our ultimate goal of life and salvation.

When we place our relationship with God before all else, our other relationships are not diminished, but are deepened, nurtured and become more reflective of God’s love. When we strive to “seek first the Kingdom of God,” it places our other obligations in their proper perspective and helps to alleviate our anxiety.

This annual Religious Vocations Supplement contains the stories of men and women who have responded to God’s call by embracing a vocation to the priesthood, the permanent diaconate or the consecrated life. Their stories reflect the many and varied ways that countless other priests, deacons and religious have generously offered themselves in service to us.

I believe it is good for us to remember them in gratitude. For in the ways they have taught us, cared for us, nurtured us and led us, we are reminded of God’s own providential care. Their unique response to God’s call to love and service reminds us of his love for us and our own call to seek God above all things. They encourage us to pursue God with the same energy that we devote to so many other things, and to strive after his righteousness with purpose, passion and conviction.

Simply through their presence among us and by embracing their vocations, priests, deacons, and religious brothers and sisters remind us that life is so much more than food and drink, that there is something beyond the cares of this world that is worth embracing and that God’s love will indeed provide for the rest.

May their witness encourage our trust in God’s care for us, and inspire us to seek more eagerly the Kingdom of God. May it also lead us to invite others to take up their example of service in the Church as priests, deacons, and religious brothers and sisters. †

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