Last weekend we had the archdiocesan Spanish vocation retreat "Vengan y Vean" (Come and See) here at Holy Name Passionist Retreat Center in Houston, Texas. Most of the young men and women who attended the retreat expressed their personal fears and expectations for the vocation weekend. They were afraid of ignoring God’s will and missing His call to religious life and/or priesthood. Likewise, they expected to have a retreat that would help them deepen their vocation discernment by dispelling their fears and doubts and affirming their willingness and capacity for serving God and the Church as religious.
Today’s gospel reminds us of the Psalmist’s warning words, that is, "If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts" (Psalm 95:7-8), which encourages us to be aware of God’s presence within and among us and not to miss the opportunity of acknowledging and appreciating the manifestation of God’s kingdom in the here and now of our everyday living. For Jesus’ words indicate that God’s everlasting kingdom of love, justice, and peace always occurs in the present and local circumstances of our daily life. That is why we hear Jesus reproaching "God’s chosen people" of the neighboring towns of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum for not responding to the manifestations and the life-changing invitations of God’s kingdom occurring in their very midst, in and through Jesus’ preaching and miraculous deeds.
The Psalmist’s warning words and Jesus’ reproaching words thus prove what some have already argued. That is, opportunities are given to us only once, just as time passes only once. In effect, the opportunities we miss to follow through on the invitation will be lost, just as the times we fail to do something prevent us from growing in God’s grace. We might have other opportunities and times to do the same thing, but the experiences and circumstances of life will never be the same as the ones we missed. That is why Jesus assures us that, at the final judgment, it will be more tolerable for Tyre, Sidon and Sodom, the pagan cities that refused to hear God’s message of repentance and conversion.
Todays’ readings, therefore, invite us to be perceptive and appreciative of God’s living presence within and among us, and to be proactive to Jesus’ call to build up God’s kingdom by proclaiming and living out the gospel values of faith, love and justice.
Fr. Alfredo Ocampo, C.P. gives retreats and parish missions. He is stationed at Holy Name Passionist Community in Houston, Texas.