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Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: July 7, 2023
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily during a Mass to receive Jesús Tovar’s letter of intent to become a seminarian for the Diocese of Little Rock at Blessed Sacrament Church in Jonesboro on Friday, July 7, 2023. It is based on the readings for Friday of the 13th Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle 1.
God has a plan for the world and each of us has a role in that plan. Some people discern that role early in life and others come to know God’s will for them much later. Some people seem to have always been on the right track from early childhood, others find their way after having learned life’s lessons the hard way.
Whatever the case, God has a plan for each one of us and when we finally hear him say, “Come, follow me” the only acceptable response is to do so, even though we do not yet know where it will all lead.
In our Gospel today we have the call of Matthew as told by Matthew himself. What he says is short and sweet. He was sitting at the customs post. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” and he got up and followed him.
It is precisely because Jesús (Tovar) has heard God’s call that he will be signing his letter of intent to enter the seminary and continue to discern whether God is in fact calling him to serve him and the Church as a priest.
Matthew was not a man who had been on the right track from early childhood — otherwise he wouldn’t have been at the customs post collecting money for the hated Roman occupiers. For that reason, he was regarded as a public sinner, a person of ill repute.
You know he must have felt bad about himself, empty inside, ready for a fresh start even if he didn’t exactly realize it at the time, at least not until he heard Jesus’ voice and discerned what that meant for him.
There are a lot of people in our world today who are like that, but who have not yet heard Jesus’ voice, at least not in a way that touched their hearts, like Matthew experienced that day. But then look at what happened when Matthew did respond: He brought other tax collectors and public sinners to Jesus, who shared a meal with them in Matthew’s house.
Others of us experience God’s call in a less dramatic way. We were raised in the faith, baptized as infants, we grew up sharing the eucharistic meal with Jesus in every Mass starting with our first holy Communion when we were in second grade, in the Church, which is our home.
Even as children we confessed our sins and found forgiveness for the wrongs we had done. We were empowered by the Holy Spirit in confirmation and once we hit high school we started thinking and praying about what the Lord wanted us to do with our lives.
That was my path and also the path of Jesús Tovar who in today’s Mass will sign his letter of intent to enter the seminary and continue to discern whether God is calling him to serve him and his Church as a priest. This is an important step in Jesús’ journey with the Lord, who says to him what he said to Matthew that day 2,000 years ago: “Follow me.”
And that is exactly what Jesús is promising to do today. And God willing, like with Matthew, Jesús will also bring others to the Lord — and for that we are grateful.
Of course, the same applies to the rest of us as well. Like I said at the beginning of this homily, each of us has an important role in God’s plan, be it as committed married couples, which are so needed in today’s world — parents raising their children in the faith, like Jesús’ parents have done, or as priests and religious whom God has given the privilege of exercising public ministry in the life of the Church, which is also so needed in today’s world.
Whatever the case, also for every one of us, when God calls, the only acceptable response is to say “yes!” — trusting in the Lord even when, like with Matthew in today’s Gospel, we do not yet know where it will all lead.
And it is precisely because Jesús has heard God’s call that he will be signing his letter of intent to enter the seminary and continue to discern whether God is in fact calling him to serve him and the Church as a priest.