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Called to commit

What is our real vocation?

I was presiding at a wedding recently – a middle-aged couple who were each entering into marriage for the second time. During my homily, I asked the congregation to tell me what came to mind when they thought of the word, “love.” There were many responses – affection, hearts, unity – but I suggested another that does not always come to mind: risk.

When my two middle-aged friends made the commitment to marry, and to love each other through sickness and health, wealth or poverty, good times and bad, they had enough life experience to really understand the risk they were taking – they knew what it was like to be with someone during grave illness, they understood the pain of loss. But they chose to take that risk, to commit to the great benefit that is love.

People sometimes ask me why there is a vocation crisis in the church – why we have so few priests and religious sisters. I don’t think it’s a vocation crisis – I believe it is a commitment crisis. Many people are afraid to take the risk of undertaking a lifetime’s worth of promises – they need to leave the back door open in order to find a way out.

In this month’s issue of FAITH, we meet several people who took big risks in order to keep commitments – to a child, to themselves, to God.

Ruth traveled to Lebanon to adopt her baby, John. When the bombs started falling, she was urged to leave. But Ruth did not have the paperwork to bring her baby with her – so she decided to stay with him until they could escape together. She risked her life to protect his.

Sister Mary Ann was searching for something – and found it when she came to know Jesus. In the middle of a successful advertising career, she walked away from financial security and entered a religious order. Now, she helps other young women who are discerning their own calls, and she finds enormous joy in her loving commitment to God.

Paco and Millie Lopez give generously to help migrant workers on the farms near their home. Even after busy days as parents and doctors, they sacrifice their time and sometimes their sleep in order to bring the Good News to their brothers and sisters. They commit to following Jesus’ commandment to “Love one another as I have loved you.”

All of these people recognize the risk their commitments entail – the risk of loss, of injury, of loneliness, of exhaustion. But for each of them, the benefit of love balanced that risk. And so each of them said, “yes.”

And so our journey in FAITH continues.