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Come and See Retreat Mass 2017

Published: December 30, 2017

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at St. Joseph Center of Arkansas in North Little Rock on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017.


Bishop Taylor

We have now come to the closing Mass for this vocations discernment retreat and I find it very interesting — and quite appropriate — that our first reading for this Mass, taken from the First Letter of St. John, concludes with these words: “Whoever does the will of God remains forever.” And that’s what this is all about, discerning and then doing the will of God.

In this reading, St. John is very clear that there is a struggle going on in this world between the light and the darkness, between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world, between loving God and all that he stands for and loving the world and the things of the world. And here St. John has a lot to say.

First he expresses how proud he is of those who are trying their best to do God’s will in their lives. They have been set free from their sins and by cooperating with God’s grace, they have come to know the power of God in their own lives and thus have to some degree “conquered the evil one.”

Second he warns them that the battle is ongoing and that they have to remain vigilant because it is so easy to get off track. There are three main areas of temptation that we all have to struggle with: the world, the flesh and Satan.

Indeed he emphasizes this, saying: I write to you, young men, because you are strong and the word of God remains in you, and you have conquered the evil one.” Actually, what he means is that though they still have to struggle with sin and temptation, they already have a share in Jesus’ victory over the evil one.

Second he warns them that the battle is ongoing and that they have to remain vigilant because it is so easy to get off track. There are three main areas of temptation that we all have to struggle with: the world, the flesh and Satan.

What are the things of the world that St. John is referring to? Everything in God’s good creation that we are tempted to pursue in ways unworthy of the Lord. The pursuit of power — worldly ambition. The accumulation of possessions — as if these could fill the emptiness we feel inside. The approval of others? My mother wanted me to be a doctor, a prestigious career, but that’s not what God wanted me to do.

It’s hard to put doing God’s will first and possibly disappointing the dreams others have for us, but as St. John writes: "Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Obviously the Father still loves us, but we don’t love him sufficiently unless we put him first.

What are the things of the flesh that St. John is referring to when he writes: “For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but from the world?”

Here he is referring to the pursuit of pleasure — first of all, “sensual lust,” which is sexual pleasure as an end in itself. This is a big challenge for all of us. But not just that, also “enticement for the eyes and a pretentious life” meaning how we dress and how we relate to others.

He cautions us that “the world and its enticements are passing away.” Everything having to do with the flesh is just temporary and part of the power of celibacy is the witness we give to what is eternal. It is obvious to everyone that we are not celibate because we dislike the flesh, quite the contrary.

We are celibate because we are living for something bigger than ourselves and our own desires and thus able to give ourselves more completely and more generously to others.

I hope that this retreat has helped you reflect on God’s call in your life and helped you find the courage to say “yes” if you think there is a possibility that the Lord may be calling you to the priesthood. And in fact you already know that this possibility does exist, otherwise you wouldn’t even be here today.

So reflect on what the Lord has been saying to you deep in your own heart these last 24 hours and take it to prayer daily as you consider your next steps.

These words of St. John in our first reading are addressed also to you: “I write to you, young men, because you are strong and the word of God remains in you, and you have conquered the evil one ... For the world and its enticements are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever.”