31st Sunday in Ordinary Time 2023
Updated: Nov 5
Fr. Shane Lynch and I on our ordination day on May 12, 2001 - the day we became "Fathers"!
Sometimes when I attend ecumenical gatherings, where I meet with clergy from various Christian traditions, there's often a slightly awkward moment.
My Protestant brothers and sisters, due to their interpretation of Scripture, sometimes hesitate on how to introduce or address me. The reason lies in today’s Gospel reading from Matthew: "Call no one on earth your father."
These words, especially in our Catholic Church where priests are traditionally called "Father," can be puzzling. What did Jesus intend by this instruction?
Jesus is cautioning us against the dangers of pride and misusing authority.
Jesus addressed this to religious leaders of His time who had lost sight of their true vocation, focusing more on titles and recognition than on service, humility, and leading their communities towards a closer relationship with God.
In our Catholic tradition, being addressed as "Father" signifies a priest's role as a spiritual guide. It doesn’t aim to overshadow our Heavenly Father but to underscore a priest's vocation of care and guidance.
I am proud of this title, not out of self-importance, but because it embodies the responsibility I've been graced with with the sacrament of Holy Orders. It represents a commitment to act in the image of our divine Father, to shepherd with love, to serve with humility, and to guide with wisdom..
Interestingly, this week also marks Vocations Awareness and Promotions Week. It's a time to contemplate the myriad ways God calls each of us.
Beyond the priesthood, there’s the call to religious life, married life, lay leadership, and single life. Every vocation, every title, has its unique challenges and joys.
I cherish being your Father, not for the title's sake, but because of our collective spiritual journey. All titles and vocations in the Church are reminders of our commitment to service.
So today, as we reflect on the Gospel and our own roles, I invite you to ponder: How are you answering God's call? Are your roles and titles bringing you and others closer to Him?
A little boy was attending Mass with his mom one Sunday. They were sitting in the front row and he was very curious about the priest.
"Mommy," he whispered, "why do they call the priest 'Father'?"
His mother smiled and said, "Well, son, priests are like fathers to their congregation. They take care of us, teach us about God, and guide us on our spiritual journey. They love us and care for us all."
The little boy nodded his head in understanding. Then he turned to his mother and said, "So, if the priest is our father, does that mean that the nuns are our mothers?"
His mother laughed again and said, "I guess you could say that, honey."
The little boy thought about this for a moment more. Then he said, "Wow! That's a big family!"
We need to remember that while we may have many titles on earth, we are all brothers and sisters in this big Catholic Christian family, journeying together towards our one Father in heaven.
During this Eucharist, let us pray asking God to inspire more women and men to discern and accept their unique vocations and for the grace to live out our vocations with purpose and humility.