Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily Jan. 26 for the women’s vocation discernment retreat.
Our first reading today from St. Paul’s second letter to Timothy is just perfect for a vocations discernment retreat, so I’d like to speak about it in some detail today. St. Paul starts this letter by telling Timothy just how he views his own vocation as an apostle — and thus by extension any vocation that truly comes from the Lord.
First of all, he views his vocation as a great honor. God chose him for this — he is “an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” And of course, you to have a God-given role in his plan and thus your vocation is a great honor too. Sister Mary Clare is a Benedictine sister “by the will of God.” You too are chosen by God for something. And he will show you what that is if you open your heart and mind to discern his will for you.
Second, his vocation is a responsibility. God didn’t just choose Paul merely for Paul’s own benefit, he chose him for a purpose, to benefit others. In his case it was to be the means by which the Good News of salvation would be proclaimed to the Gentiles.Every vocation, if it is truly from the Lord, involves living for something bigger than yourself. In the case of women religious, this may mean parish work, teaching, taking care of the sick, service to the poor, etc.
Third, his vocation was a different kind of parenting. He calls Timothy “my beloved child.” Notice the warmth and affection, this is not a business letter to a colleague, it is the letter of a father to his son. Timothy’s parents may have given him physical life, but it was Paul who gave him spiritual life. Those who take a vow of chastity will never give birth physically, but they can well know the joy of being a mother in the faith — and there is no greater joy in the world than nurturing the faith of spiritual sons and daughters. And all this without having to change any diapers. Women religious have a special kind of maternity unlike any other.
Fourth, notice why Paul was writing this letter. Timothy was young, and he was dealing with some problems that required a great deal of courage. There were heresies in the community that needed to be corrected and persecution from outside that had to be endured. Timothy seems to have been dealing with some doubts — like you and me, he felt weak and uncertain about what all this meant and what God was really asking of him. So Paul reminds Timothy that he has his support and the support of his family — his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice were sincere believers and surely he could count on the support of their prayers.
And isn’t that true for you and me? Maybe not from everyone — Paul doesn’t mention Timothy’s father or grandfather — but Paul points out that he does have all the support he needs. So the time has come to set aside his doubts and “stir into flame the gift of God” that he has received. And this will give him courage to replace his cowardice with “power, love and self-control.”
Isn’t that a good message for you and me? To remind me to “stir into flame the gift of God” that I have received by the imposition of hands. To remind our women religious to continue to draw on “the power and love and self-control” at the heart of their vows to the Lord. And to remind you who are discerning a possible vocation to religious life not to give in to “a spirit of cowardice” but rather to set aside your doubts and open your heart to whatever the Lord is asking of you, knowing that a religious vocation is not only a great honor and a great responsibility, it is also a special gift of maternal love in the heart of the Church.
We hope you found thisstory interesting. If you appreciate the news, features and reliable information brought to you by Arkansas Catholic, could you make a secure online donation to help support our mission?