I am so fortunate writing this in gratitude for the people and parishes that have shaped my priesthood and my life. On this, the 32st anniversary, I thank God for the people and students of St. Frances if Rome, Cicero; St Mary of the Woods, Chicago; Archbishop Quigley Seminary High School; Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Chicago; St John Fisher, Chicago; St. Eulalia, Maywood; St. Teresa of Avila.
The people of these communities and schools have given me a wealth of memories that I carry with me in
my heart. The gift of the ordained priesthood that was given to me 31 years ago, is rooted in baptism, which roots ALL followers of Jesus in His priesthood. We all share in this one priesthood of Christ. I hope I never forget that my identity is forged first and foremost in Baptism, which roots me in God’s People. When those of us who are ordained as priest or bishop lose our rootedness in baptism , we are bound to succumb to arrogance and clericalism. Ordination does not separate us from the people, nor does it place us above them.
Horrible things happen when we priests and bishops forget that our ordination is a lifetime call to serve the People of God. The icon of Christ washing the feet of the apostles must be the guided image of our ministry.
The gospel on this day happens to be a difficult one that isn’t very comforting. How appropriate. Jesus goes to his home village, preaches and heals, only to be misunderstood by his own people…even the members of his own family. Jesus utters the famous words, “a prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house. ” jesus leaves, “amazed at their lack of faith. ” Stinging words.
Our family and friends are the most treasured people in our lives but sometimes familiarity does breed contempt. Each one of us is perceived in a certain way by those who love us and when we speak or act in ways that shatter this image, the reaction can be very negative and harsh. His own
People apparently didn’t see jesus as one whose words had authority and whose actions brought healing. Maybe jealousy raged it’s ugly head; or the people didn’t want to be challenged by one of their own…too close for comfort.
Being misunderstood and rejected is an unpleasant experience but one in which we all must face. We all want to be liked and appreciated by everyone , something impossible if you are going to stand up for something. However, I hope and pray that if I have caused anyone discomfort, it was always for the right reasons: to gently challenge a person to take a higher road or to rise to a higher occasion. The gospel is all about transformation….change…of mind and heart. May this change begin with one’s self.
But I haven’t always spoken and acted in the best interests of the people I have encountered over the years . I am truly sorry for speaking and acting in ways overly confrontational and strident. I have betrayed a lack of humility in these occasions causing hurt feelings. I can’t be a good priest or pastor without humility, the mother of all virtue. I am sorry for my lack of humility. It is so easy for me to return sarcasm for sarcasm, bitter spirit for bitter spirit. In other words, “an eye for an eye…” On o you know the rest. I believe Jesus overturned that way of responding in the Sermon on the Mount. As Gandhi prophetically said , “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. ”
As I remember and celebrate on this day, I pray my own heart be open and “rent” allowing Grace to invade and conquer spirits and attitudes contrary to my mission as priest. I am sorry for my own lack of faith, or for a weak faith , when life gets messy and confusing. It saddens me to think that the Lord may be disappointed ,or even amazed, at my own lack of faith.
For me, the remedy is always to come out of myself and into the lives of the people I serve. I walk as priest in the midst of the people, shoulder to shoulder in the mission of the gospel. I hope and pray that when I am misunderstood or rejected, it is for the right reasons. This is the fate of all of us who follow jesus. It is my mission as priest to imitate christ in the washing of the feet ….and in laying down my life in service. Those who have showed me the way to bring a great priest have largely not been other priests but the people of the various parishes I have served. May I follow their example.
On the night of my ordination, the earth was blanketed with several inches of light, puffy snow. As in walked out of the reception and saw this quiet beauty I felt a deep peace. Never could I have imagined then, on that snowy night of ordination, where I am sitting now, on third floor of St. Teresa of Avila rectory writing these words of gratitude. That Blanket of snow has been a beautiful image of the blanket of God’s Grace that covers you, me and every human being.
Ad Multos Anos