The Gospel today presents us with a vocation story. The Risen Jesus Christ comes into the midst of his disciples and says “peace be with you”. He then sends them out in mission: “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you”. Tomas, The Twin, the one we often called “doubting Thomas” also discovered his vocation when he met the Risen Christ. Tradition tells us he went to India to bring the Good news.
These vocation stories are ones of mercy. The disciples had followed Jesus but then ran away when he was crucified. Jesus had promised he would give them a peace the world would never know. And here he is, after their betrayal, offering this great gift. They are stories of mercy incarnate. It is not without significance that the new calling came in their lives in the context of mercy.
We know Pope Francis tells his vocation story in terms of mercy. When he was seventeen, he was heading to the train in Buenos Aires for his school’s annual picnic and actually thinking of proposing marriage to his girlfriend that day. As he passed by the local church, he decided to go in to say a prayer. There he met a young, friendly priest and decided to go to confession to him. Something happened in that confession which Pope Francis describes as an encounter with God who had been waiting for him.
In that encounter young Jorge Bergoglio experienced unmistakably and powerfully the mercy of God for him and for all people. In that moment, he felt called and he discovered a special vocation of mercy. He did not go to the train or the picnic that day. He did not propose to his girlfriend. His life and its course was completely changed in that moment. And, he tells us that because of that youthful experience, he adopted his motto “miserando atque eligendo” which he translates: “having been shown mercy and chosen to show mercy.”
A vocation is born in humility before God’s mercy. If someone is full of themselves, they can’t receive God’s call. Often it will take a situation of discovery of God’s mercy for a vocation to begin to be discerned. A young man in Maynooth some years ago told the story of how he had drifted from the faith. Through his girlfriend he attended a retreat meeting organised by the Emmanuel Community. He had no idea what he was going to. But it turned out to be a turning point in his life. He went to Confession for the first time in years and it was a very profound experience for him. He began a journey that led him to discover a vocation to priesthood.
Cardinal Cadijn, founder of Young Christian Workers said, just as in the temporal world, there is a Ministry for Justice and Health, so too in the religious world, there is a Ministry of Divine Justice and Spiritual Health and this is the Sacrament of Penitence. "Giving young workers understanding and love of sacramental confession is to ensure their perseverance and their Catholic pride. Nothing quenches the soul like the enlightened and faithful practice of sacramental confession”.
Let us pray that young women and men will be enabled to have an experience of mercy in their lives – be it in gatherings such as the World Youth Day or retreat/mission gatherings by groups such as Youth 2000 or other movements. Let’s pray that the sacrament of confession will be rediscovered as an encounter with Jesus Christ who calls.