The other day I was in the cafeteria in our beloved school at lunchtime. I sat at one of the third grade tables. There was a boy there whose mother is a friend of mine and it was her birthday that day, which I reminded him about. He replied, “Sometimes I like to eat bacon on my hot dog.” Another child said he was glad that Jesus came to earth because now we can eat pork. One must admire his Old Testament knowledge!
And that’s what we hear about in our first reading today about the seven Maccabean brothers who preferred to die instead of eat a piece of pork (a sin against God’s law in OT days). We might look and say, “Why not just eat the pork and bank on God’s mercy?” Seems a rather small infraction, no? But Scripture holds these men up as examples. They died instead of eating a piece of bacon. They were men of faithfulness and heroic fidelity. They did not compromise, they gave all to their God.
We have examples of this heroic faithfulness in our own day. I want to think about one with you today.
Yesterday evening I went to Saint Mary of the Woods to assist with a retreat. SMW was founded officially on October 22, 1840. It dawned on me how many lives have been changed because of that place. There are all the students, current and down through the generations, who have come to the Lord there, developed lasting friendships there, fallen in love there. There are all those who have retreated there and been given some direction from the Lord there. Then there are the Sisters of Providence of course, the thousands of them who have served and lived there and some still do. Our school here at OLG and the school I grew up in, all of it was built by those sisters. It boggles my mind just how many lives have been transformed here at this school, even in just one of those classrooms. I know my life would be drastically different had I not gone to St. Charles School in Bloomington. I do not think I would be standing here right now. But think of all those Sisters have done and do.
And it all started because Sister Theodore Guerin, SP, had the guts to follow God’s plan and dream for her life. She didn’t really want to come over here from France. She almost didnt’ make it. She could have been bitter about the difficulties and weight of her cross and simply put her feet up here. But she gave it all she had. The result is a crazy, amazing ripple effect. It is a strange thing to consider that I might not be standing here today if Sister Theodore had not answered her vocation with the courage and might and faith she mustered up.
Today begins National Vocation Awareness Week. It is a week to celebrate the vocation to priesthood, religious life, and married life. Everybody has a vocation, God has a plan for us all. My sister in law was scheduled to give birth to their fourth child on Friday….still not here…pray for them! But it is wild to consider that God long ago created a plan for that child. Just as he has for all of the kids at our parish, everyone around the world. Our job is to figure it out and follow it–with all we got. Folks, we need more good mothers and fathers. We especially need more priests and religious. Our parish should have a seminarian and I know he is calling at least one of you young men to it. Pray about it and drum up the courage to give it a shot.
It can be a bit daunting, this idea of having to know and follow our vocations as nicely as the examples in scripture and the saints. Somebody recently came and shared some woes. He said, “I’m afraid I blew God’s plan for my life.” I said, “I don’t think you’re that powerful.” Because God redeems it all, that’s what our readings are about today: the resurrection and its power. As my seminary rector said once, “God has a way of having his way.”
We pray in thanksgiving today for so much. We thank God for our priests and seminarians and religious. We thank him for redeeming our mistakes and for helping us not to make them. We thank him for all the holy married people and parents we know. And we pray for a greater awareness in the hearts and minds of all our young people that they matter, that God has a plan for them–a plan that, if they are faithful to it, will change as many lives as St Theodore Guerin did.