This past weekend in my homily, I talked about some of the negative reactions I've got when I've suggested someone has a vocation to priesthood. I talked about how that's understandable because of the negative impressions people have of priesthood, both those caused by sexual abuse and angry priests and those caused by the perception that the only way to lead a happy life is by having sex. I then talked about the first four chapters of Samuel. If you haven't read these chapters, please do so. They're great. It's a story of contrasts between Hannah and Eli. Hannah is faithful to God. She is mocked by her husband's other wife because she seems to be barren but, when she promises to dedicated her first-born to God, she doesn't react like a person scorn. She offers her son Samuel to the service of the priest, Eli. Eli, on the other hand, seems like a faithful person but has managed to appoint his power-hungry sons, Phineas and Hophni, to positions of power, He is not a good shepherd. That's why chapter 3 is so complex. It says that the Word of the Lord was was scarce and vision infrequent. Why? What were Phineas and Hophni and Eli doing if not listening to and preaching the Word of the Lord? We know from chapter 2 that Phineas and Hophni were busy stealing from the best sacrifices and making sure their bellies were full and possibly meeting women at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. They were worried about their comfort more than the will of God. I contrasted that with Samuel who was told during his calling that his first job was to tell Eli that his time has come to an end as the priest and that he and his sons would die.
All too often, we think our goal in life is to be happy. But, a true vocation has moments of happiness and frustration. It has moments that test our patience and moments of testing our abilities. It has moments of being yelled at and moments of failure. But, it is still joyful amidst all this. We have to think more in the long run than in the immediate, short-term. Is it worth the sadness and frustration and anger? I think being able to give people the body and blood of Christ and telling them that their sins are forgiven is incredibly joyful. I think helping people say goodbye to a dead relative and helping them welcome a new baby is joyful. It's not always happy but I can guarantee you that anything worth doing is both challenging and joyful.