Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A
Mass for the Come and See Weekend (Winter Semester) 2023
[Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12-13; Psalm 146; 1Corinthians 1:26-31; Matthew 5:1-12]
In a recent discussion, use was made of an acronym that caught my attention – FOMO. As you likely know, it stands for “fear of missing out”. I have seldom come across this, but I understand it is used quite often by people to refer to an anxiety that can hold many people in its grip. The human heart searches naturally for happiness, and our world today offers an endless array and dizzying variety of things that, we are told, will give us the beatitude we seek. Fearing they might miss out on the latest promises, many people expend great effort and expense in their pursuit, only to discover that, even if they do get the latest gadget or go on the “must do” travel adventure, they have pursued false promises, that happiness continues to elude them, and anxiety grows within.
Christians understand well that the desire for happiness – true, deep, and abiding happiness – can be fulfilled only in the encounter with Jesus Christ. In fact, in the Gospel passage from St. Matthew we hear the Lord’s familiar teaching about those who are truly blessed, a word sometimes translated as “happy”. The sacred text gives us the well-known Beatitudes, where Jesus speaks of true happiness in terms quite other than those used by our world. The first summarizes all the rest: “blessed are the poor in spirit” – blessed, in other words, are those who humbly and peacefully recognize that all is God’s gift; that God, who loves us beyond measure and has given us Iife, will provide always for our every need. This fundamental stance arises in our hearts from a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, in whom we come to realize that we are known, loved and treasured. This is what gives birth to true happiness, and the awareness that we do not need to be on a frantic search elsewhere. When we know Jesus Christ, FOMO assumes an entirely different focus; it means not wanting to miss out on the fullness of life, peace, and joy given uniquely in a relationship with him.
You have all gathered here on this Come and See weekend because you are wondering if the Lord Jesus might be calling you to follow him as a priest. We at the seminary, together with your Diocesan vocation directors, are more than happy to accompany you in this discernment. For my part, I encourage you to ask yourselves to what degree FOMO might be present in your own hearts as you seek the voice of Christ. What I mean is this: do you fear what you might be “missing out on” by saying yes to Jesus Christ? That you will “miss out” on something is a given, in the sense that saying yes to Jesus Christ always involves an embrace of the Cross, a self-denial. Pope Francis, in fact, spoke about this last Sunday in his Angelus address, where he said that every instance of following the Lord involves a “leaving”. The first apostles, for example, left behind their nets, i.e., their livelihood, their plans. Should you be called to be a priest, you, too, will come to know what must be left behind. My question is: are you afraid of missing out on what you will leave? The question itself is not something to fear – it would be quite natural, in fact, to wonder about “what might have been”. Be sure to take a look within yourself and dialogue with the Lord about any FOMO that is occupying you.
As you do, ask yourself another question: do I trust Jesus? That is the most important question of all. You know well that people today, especially the young, live under the enormous pressure created by the message that we should trust nothing and no one but ourselves as we create our own direction and even our own identity. We need to sever all attachments in order to be truly free to pursue happiness as we define it. Hence the need to ask these questions: am I willing to entrust the entirety of my life no longer to myself but to Jesus; am I prepared to discover true freedom no longer in isolation but in attachment, specifically in my attachment to Jesus and adhesion to his every Word; do I trust that Jesus will lead me to a way of following him that will issue in true happiness? Intellectually, we know, of course, that Jesus is entirely worthy of our trust. He will never deceive us, never lead us astray. Yet, readiness to follow the Lord must also involve a conviction of the heart, one born of a personal encounter with the indescribable love of Jesus for me. That itself is a grace, a gift from the Lord, one for which I encourage you to pray constantly as you seek to know his particular plan for you. Trust him.
One final thought for your consideration, based on the teaching of Saint Paul we heard in the second reading. This concerns not FOMO, but another fear that might prevent us from saying yes to Jesus – fear of not measuring up. Saint Paul tells us that God calls the weak. We often summarize what Paul is teaching this way: God does not call the qualified; he qualifies those He calls. Those who exercise the sacred ministry of the priest do by God’s grace what they could never accomplish by themselves. Do not be afraid to listen to the voice of the Lord Jesus and say yes to however he calls you to follow him. He always provides his disciples with everything needed for the mission as they need it.
The heart of the priesthood is the celebration of the Eucharist. Here the Lord Jesus renders himself truly present in the sacrament of his Body and Blood. In this mass, let us pray for the grace to be truly poor in spirit, entirely trusting in the love and providence of the Lord who loves us beyond measure, and from the depths of that love calls us to follow him to the fullness of life and to true happiness. May the grace of this sacrament help us to confront whatever fears lie within us and enable us to say yes to Jesus Christ.
Most Reverend Richard W. Smith
St. Joseph’s Seminary, Edmonton
January 29th, 2023