Don’t miss the boat. I do not know if you have ever seen one of those videos. There is one that came out last month of a couple who missed the cruise ship on their honeymoon. You see them frantically running to the cruise ship and just hopelessly watching as the ship goes away. You see the water being stirred up by the ship and moving out. There is no way that they are going to get on it.
Actually, I almost did miss the ship last night coming back from Medjugorje. Our flight was canceled, so I ended up driving back with a family from Philadelphia to Cleveland. I did not get back to Walsh until 4:30 am. Excuse me if I am a little out of sorts.
I want to talk about what it means to not miss the boat as we reflect on the gospel today. We hear Jesus say, “Follow me.” But, the disciple replies, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” Jesus answered him, “Let the dead bury the dead, but you proclaim the kingdom of God.”
This is one of those striking examples where we hear something in scripture, and we think, “How can Jesus say that?” It is one of those examples where he uses this message in this phrase so strongly. We realize that if he is calling us to something we should not let anything get in the way – no matter what it may be. If he is calling you to it, you do not want to miss the boat.
When I was in Medjugorje this past week, I stayed with Ivan Dragicevic who is one of the visionaries. Ivan actually married a woman from Massachusetts. Just a beautiful woman. When she first went there to meet him, she was actually in a contest for Miss America at the time and living a different life obviously than she is living now. She came with two other guys who later would become priests, and she would go on to marry Ivan.
It was a love at first sight thing that they experienced. It was interesting because we got to hear the other priest share his story. He was actually there when we were there, and his name is Father Mike. He said that when he was in Medjugorje, he got the call to the priesthood.
It was around the same time that he heard an older man sharing his story of his life. He shared that he regretted that he never answered the call to become a priest. He felt called to become a priest and never answered the call, so his whole life was filled with regret that he never became a priest. He missed the boat. Father Mike actually used that phrase.
I did not want to miss the boat and to live with that regret that God was calling me to priesthood, and having never responded. I did not want to miss that boat. The other thing that struck him is that another man said to him at another time, “You will never know unless you go.” Unless you actually go to the seminary, you will never really know if that call was for you. Father Mike went to the seminary just to try it. “OK, God, is this what you are calling me to?” Of course, he went on and became a priest. He is a wonderful priest.
I met another couple on the trip that is married. They have been married for a long time and have a wonderful marriage. Their children were there with us on the pilgrimage. Just a beautiful family. They were actually grade school sweethearts. They dated in grade school and then in high school they dated on and off. I think they came around together during college.
They were not moving forward to an engagement, so the mother of the groom said, “You better propose to her before somebody else does.” It was a moment that woke him up. He realized that if this is the woman God was placing in his life, he better ask her to marry him. He did and, obviously, they are married today. It was a good example of somebody that did not miss the boat. They took the opportunity.
All of us are being called to something in this life. We are being called to this wonderful adventure and journey with God. I am encouraging you to recognize that if God is calling you to something in this life, do not miss the boat. That is a vocation.
Maybe he is calling you to be a priest or religious. Maybe he is calling one of our students to the priesthood – and you put it off, and you put it off. You think maybe next year when you get your major. Maybe after this, this and this.
You can miss the boat. You can miss the invitation. Maybe God is calling you to be a religious sister or brother. It may just take for you to go in and see what it is like living with a community. Maybe it is you just making a retreat with the religious community. Do not miss the boat. Maybe he is calling you to marriage and there is somebody that he has placed on your heart. You know that is the person for you, and you just have not taken that next step to propose to them.
Maybe it is the call within the call. Maybe you are married or are a religious or single, and he is calling you to do something in life that only you can fulfill. You do not want to miss the boat. For students, it is maybe changing majors. Maybe it is a ministry that you are called to. Maybe it is an invitation to go on a pilgrimage or a mission trip to keep involved in the church in some way by volunteering and offering yourself in service.
Whatever your call from him may be right now, if you do not answer, your life may never really be the same. You may never fulfill that mission or that vocation that he is calling you to. Maybe there is something he is calling you away from. Maybe there is some addiction in your life, some perpetual sin that he is inviting you to walk away from.
Do not miss the boat. Certainly, there are times in our lives or calls not to change. There is this example in the gospel today: “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say goodbye to my family at home.” To him, Jesus says, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God.” Maybe you are married already, or you are like me – a priest or religious.
I remember what I was thinking before I was ordained, as I was finally coming to that final decision. “Alright, God, is this what you want me to do, and am I willing to say ‘yes?’” My spiritual director said to me, “If you say “yes,” say “yes” with all your heart and do not ever look back.” He used this phrase.
If you put your hand to the plow, do not look back at what is left behind. Anybody who looks back at what is behind is not fit for the Kingdom of God. If you are in a state of perpetual union of marriage, or priesthood, or religious and you are hearing this right now, do not look back.
Trust that he is calling you to this way of life. Maybe this is a time to recommit yourself or reinvest yourself to whatever your call is. As we celebrate these sacred mysteries this Sunday, we hear the way of God, and we reflect on these readings.
I want you to think about whatever God is calling you to right now or whatever he is calling you away from right now. Do not be afraid to take the step because it is a wonderful adventure. It is an amazing journey. Sometimes in life we only have one opportunity to respond, and it is now. Do not miss the boat.