19 July 2009

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, Homily

Let me start by saying Thank You. To Fr Peter for allowing me to celebrate Mass here today, especially on his own anniversary of ordination, to you for being here in such numbers and for all the prayers, cards, gifts and well wishes not just for my ordination but over the seven years of my formation. This is not the end, of course, but rather the beginning. Someone very wise once said that when you leave seminary, then you learn how to be a priest – so I look forward to your guidance and support over the years to come, that I may be the priest you need.
Our first reading gives me ample warning of what can go wrong when you don’t listen to the constructive criticism offered. Woe to those shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock, says the Lord. This, in essence, is the call of the priest: to lead and unite the people of God. Often, I have pondered on what it is to be a priest. Why is the priest different? The Second Vatican Council fathers taught us that we are all sharers in the royal priesthood of Christ and so why, therefore, do we need to have an ordained priesthood? Why is it necessary that God should chose, from amongst us, men to serve as priest?
This question is one we all ask ourselves from time to time, I hope, and now is the suitable time, in this year of the priesthood, to ask this insightful question. When we reflect on the priest, we reflect on ourselves. Before we can know what a priest is, we need to ask, what the priesthood of Christ is all about. Why is He a priest for us? Then we ask in what way do I share in that priesthood? How am I a priest for others?
Well, the Lord says, through the prophet Jeremiah, he will gather the people together into one land and then they will multiply. In other words, Jesus came to call the people to the Father. We, in our own way, share in this mission of Jesus to call people to God. We can do this best by simply leading good Christian lives. The clue is in the name – Christian: a follower of Christ. A good motto, taken from the American Congregationalist, Charles Sheldon, is: What Would Jesus Do? It is a form of imitatio Dei, an imitation of God, in whose image we are all created. In his novel, Sheldon puts the following words into the mouth of a homeless man, who in turn is challenging the priest:
“But what would Jesus do? Is that what you mean by following His steps? It seems to me sometimes as if the people in the big churches had good clothes and nice houses to live in, and money to spend for luxuries, and could go away on summer vacations and all that, while the people outside the churches, thousands of them, I mean, die in tenements, and walk the streets for jobs, and never have a piano or a picture in the house, and grow up in misery and drunkenness and sin.”
By just asking the simple question, what would Jesus do, we answer, for ourselves, what we need to do in order to be the person we want to be; the person we were created to be and to follow the call of Him who calls us out of darkness. When we do what Jesus does then we can rest, as Mark tells us in today’s Gospel, because the people will come, they will follow and they will be drawn. How often, when you look at people who you admire, do you want a little of what they have. You want what they have, not because of envy, but because you believe it will make you a little like them. If you want to be like Christ and to minister to his people, then you need a little of what he has and that, my friends, is utter reliance upon his Father, such that it is all He wants to do.
Like Nelson Mandella, whose 91st birthday we celebrate this weekend, we can join him in Mandella Day by acts of kindness: visiting the sick, feeding the homeless, reading to the blind, even helping someone to cross the road – these are all acts of charity which teaches our faith. More than this – they are the way to build our community, to become one in the Spirit. Most especially we can teach our faith by sharing it. Any gift, and faith is most certainly a gift, is truly alive when it is shared with others. Truly the joy of receiving is in giving to others. Are you a person who prefers to receive or to give?
So, when I ask; what is a priest, I can see the answer lies in knowing Christ in a particular way, and in asking the question, what would Jesus do. More than this, the priest is the one who says: the Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. There is nothing beyond the love of Christ which I desire and because He loves me, I want you to know how much He loves you, too. I want to share my gift of priesthood with you and, in so doing, to draw you to know that you, too, are a sharer in the priesthood of Christ. You have been called no less than I. I am, for you, a priest. You are, for me, the one who shows the way.
Again, I say, thank you. Thank you for showing me the way to the priesthood, and thank you for continuing to pray for me and with me, and finally, thank you for all that you do to show the love of Christ to those in most need.



Related Posts with Thumbnails