We saw in the last meditation (The Call – Part II, 09/24/17) that a positive response to the call of Christ to follow Him in contemporary life depends on what we termed the ‘Vertical Dimension’ of Faith. This refers to the direct connection of God within our daily life. God breaks into our ordinary daily life with His extraordinary presence. This must be mediated by the community of Faith (the Church) and by its ongoing prayer (the Liturgy). This ever-present sacredness, which should permeate our understanding of all reality, must be ‘acted out’ within certain sacred precincts of communal action.
How then as a community can we live a more fervent life so that we naturally produce those vocations as easily as a healthy apple tree produces apples?
This is a difficult question that goes to the very heart of what it means to be a Christian. We have to admit that one of the habits that we fall into is that we simply do the minimum when it comes times to living the Christian life.
Individually, as members of the Body of Christ, we must ask for the gift of Faith since according to the Gospels even Jesus could not do any miracles if the people did not have faith. We need His help even with having faith. Remember the father of the sick child who expressed the deeply meaningful prayer: “I do believe, help my unbelief!” This unbelief is reinforced by our secular age that has cast off all cultural supports to faith and placed us in a materialist desert where we are starving and thirsting for the spiritual. This is why people have turned to crazy beliefs. We cannot live totally without faith!
But this call to faith is not an intellectual exercise. It must be joined to a love that reaches out and finds its surest expression in devotion. Devotion is the rare and powerful activity that shows forth the trust and love and commitment we show to God. It must proceed from a truly humble heart that seeks to do the will of the beloved above all things and in all things. When someone is in love he is capable of doing anything that the beloved asks for. Behind this is the powerful erotic drive. But behind the parallel movement of faith in the drive of devotion is the energy of faith and trust.
To kneel before the Blessed Sacrament in humble affection, to forgive those who harm us from the heart, and to see in the sick the presence of Jesus Himself are all acts of devotion. A community that together acts this drama out each day will produce the heat and power that will generate vocations to lifelong service in the Church. Anything less than that will simply produce individuals who have themselves as the center of action and who fall away easily like the seed planted in bad soil. The true soil of vocations is devotion.
This devotion cannot be weak willed and unable or unwilling to sacrifice a great deal in achieving union with God. We use the word ‘fervent’ to designate a mode of doing something with great power and force. One who has fervent devotion is willing to make great sacrifices, to be inconvenienced, to face opposition in the fulfillment of a perceived desire that God reveals.
The enemy of a fervent devotion is the quest for convenience and the placement of other priorities in front of the Spiritual. Instead of a person of fervent devotion, one sees someone who is weak and open to compromise, one whose heat has cooled.
This, unfortunately, seems to characterize the lack of devotion we see in our midst. This weak expression will not in any way produce the fruit of vocations, no matter what programs we devise. A rotten tree cannot produce good fruit; only a good tree can.
If, for instance, we begin to see a large and vibrant turnout at our Parish Holy Hours, large numbers at daily Masses, sell-out crowds at adult education opportunities, we will begin to see the devotion which is creative and which naturally produces the fruit of vocations.
No one program can do this. It takes the individual parishioner who makes a firm act of the will to put nothing before their faith and its natural expression, who looks for opportunities to deepen and develop their faith, who searches the scriptures on their own, who, in a word, puts their faith ‘first’; it takes parishioners like this to be the ones who contribute to a culture of vocations that will produce the priests and religious sisters and brothers of the future.