Sunday Scriptures

Vocations Are Rooted in the Domestic Church

By Father John Cush

It’s fascinating how trends go in Hollywood for film genres. Think about it – the 1940s brought big, busy, brightly colored musicals. The 1950s gave Westerns pride of place and the 1960s offered the surf film. The 1970s gave us the outer space, sci-fi aspects with the success of “Star Wars” and the 1980s offered us the flag waving Rambo-esque hero. The 1990s gave us the remakes of old TV shows on the big screen and the 2000s brought forth the superhero as the primary style.

What would be the preferred film genre of the 2010s? I still think it’s the superhero film, with the success of Marvel’s “Avengers,” “Captain America,” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.” But wouldn’t it be interesting if Bible movies took off as a huge influence in film?

2014 saw the arrival of Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah,” with its environmentally sensitive Noah, portrayed by Russell Crowe, and with its angels as rock-like Transformer robots. We had “Son of God,” a fairly straightforward New Testament saga, which wasn’t so successful at the box office. And last December had Ridley Scott’s “Exodus: Of Gods and Kings.”

Christian Bale’s Moses rather different version of the Lawgiver, perhaps more of a rebel leader than the usual film image of Moses which comes from Charlton Heston’s man in the long white beard. Whatever we may think of these movies, at least people are thinking and talking again about Sacred Scripture and great figures in salvation history.

Indeed, Moses is the central figure in the first reading offered to us from the Book of Deuteronomy. And here we encounter the Moses, who is the established leader of the people of Israel, the one who is struggling to have YHWH’s people be faithful to the covenant that was made with them. This is a man who is answering the concerns of his people and these people are worried, concerned about the future, about who will be there to guide the chosen people after Moses goes. In many ways, this is like a parish council meeting with its pastor, who might be retiring or being transferred to another parish. Who’s going to be the replacement?

From Among Your Kin
Read again the words of Moses: “A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you from among your own kin; to him you shall listen.”

Isn’t this just like a parish? There is a story about a pastor who spoke a language that his parishioners primarily spoke, even though he was not of the same ethnicity as them.

One day, a parishioner was complaining to a visiting diocesan official, saying that it’s great that Father So-and-so speaks our language fluently, and he knows and respects our cultural traditions. But why can’t we have a priest who comes from our ethnic group? Without missing a beat, the diocesan official looked at the parishioner and said, “Then encourage your son to be a priest.”

We all want our priests, our deacons and our religious to be like us, to understand our ways in the multicultural society in which we live, but are we willing to encourage our brothers, nephews, sons and grandsons to be priests? We all want our religious sisters to be young and vibrant, to look like the children they will teach, the parishioners to whom they will minister, but do we encourage our sisters, nieces, daughters and grand- daughters to consider consecrated life as a religious sister?

We all want vocations to religious life and the priesthood but are we willing to seriously encourage our own family members to consider being a priest, a religious brother or religious sister?

When I was teaching English at Cathedral Prep, Elmhurst, I encountered a parent whose son was seriously interested in the priesthood. The parent spoke to me about it and at the end of our conversation declared, “Listen, Father, I’m all for vocations, just not my son!”

Prayer and Invitation
But if we want vocations that are native to the Diocese of Brooklyn, if we want our own young women and men to consider religious life, then it has to start within the domestic church that is the family. A prophet will be raised up from among your kin, the Lord promises Moses. But that prophet will only come if we pray and if we actively promote vocations in our homes.

In this year that our Holy Father has dedicated to consecrated life, pray that from our families, from Brooklyn and Queens many more happy, healthy, holy young women and men will respond to the call to serve God, the Church and the world as a religious or as a priest.

Readings for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time:
Deuteronomy 18: 15-20
Psalm 95: 1-2. 6-7, 7-9
1 Corinthians 7: 32-35
Mark 1: 21-28

Father John P. Cush is a doctoral candidate in fundamental theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Italy. He also serves as censor librorum for the Brooklyn Diocese.

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