I went to an Ordination yesterday in Burlington. Do you know how hard it is to get to Burlington from here? So, I relied on my GPS. It chose one way going there and another coming back.
Going to Vermont it brought me over the Whitehall bridge and I saw all the little roads of Vermont.
Coming back it brought me over the Ticonderoga Bridge and I saw all the little roads of New York.
Now, some of you may be wondering why I didn’t take the ferry. Well, quite honestly, I don’t trust ferries. There’s just something about putting two tons of metal on something that floats that seems to be against the natural law.
Anyways, I got to Burlington and back to Queensbury via two bridges, which like all bridges had three things in common.
First, unlike the untrustworthy ferry, they kept me far above the raging waters.
Second, unlike the ferry, they were free. Neither bridge wanted anything more than the satisfaction of transporting me from one shore to another.
And finally, each Bridge, like every good bridge in the world, was firmly and equally grounded on both shores. In fact that’s what made them bridges.
Three things: each bridge carried me above the storm, for free and was grounded on both shores.
Saint John Paul II once wrote about Father Busch, and every good Priest. I think its particularly appropriate to recall those words as you celebrate three and a half decades of Father’s priestly ministry. Here’s what the Pope wrote:
“In order that his ministry may be humanly as credible and acceptable as possible, it is important that the priest should mold his human personality in such a way that it becomes a bridge and not an obstacle for others in their meeting with Jesus Christ the Redeemer of humanity.” (Pastores Dabo Vobis, no. 43)
So, the priest, like Whitehall and Ticonderoga, must be a bridge, not between New York and Vermont, but between you and Christ.
And just like any good bridge, he must do three things: carry you above the storm, for free and be grounded on both shores.
He must carry you above the storm. For thirty-five years Joseph Busch has decreased, so that Christ might through him keep you safe from the storm.
The storms of your own sinfulness, each time he patiently listens to your sins and forgives them.
The storms of your own fear when life seems just too much and the winds grow too strong and you’re not sure you can make it and he gently guides your heart and teaches you to pray and to join your sufferings to the cross.
The raging waters of sickness and pain when he lays his hands on you in the name of the Church and anoints you with her blessed oil and recalls the Lord’s own command to ‘anoint with oil whoever is sick and cure them.
And the awful storms of emptiness and hunger and fright unto death which are only quenched by the bread become his Body and the wine become his Blood in the perfect sacrifice which joins our sufferings to his and destroys death and brings us life.
For thirty-five years, Father has gotten out of the way, so that the Lord could keep us safe through his hands, shepherd us home through his voice and preserve us through his prayers. For the priest is the bridge to Christ, through the Sacraments, through his preaching and through the way he leads us home, across the stormy waters, to the waiting arms of God.
And like any good bridge, he does it for free. The priest has given up family and fame and career….he let himself be bound by the Church in obedience and chose to go not where he chose, but where the Bishop told him. He renounced wealth, seldom making more money than anyone else and laboring day and night, driving to Glens Falls Hospital at 2am, just because Jesus wanted him to. Not counting the cost, seeking neither sack, nor tunic, nor money in his belt, he has wanted nothing but the satisfaction of transporting you from this shore to the next, from darkness to light, and from fear to Christ.
And finally, the good Priest, like the good bridge, remains firmly fixed on both shores. John Paul II said it best. He “should be able to know the depths of the human heart, to perceive difficulties and problems, to make meeting and dialogue easy, to create trust and cooperation, to express serene and objective judgments.” (Pastores Dabo Vobis, no. 43.) In other words, he must not just seem to love you, but to be willing to lay down his life for you, to love you unto death. You are one shore to which he is fixed.
And all the while he is equally fixed on that other shore, to the Christ who has called him to take on his own image, to be his holy vessel from the time he was a child. The Christ who has remained faithful to him, as he has called him to remain faithful to you. Firmly rooted in prayer, in penance and in love with Jesus, Pope Benedict told us, he the Priest becomes “a mediator, a bridge that connects, and thereby to bring human beings to God, to his redemption, to his true light, to his true life.” (Pope Benedict XVI, February 23, 2010)
So, it’s Father’s anniversary…the day we remember how for thirty-five years God has been using him as a bridge for children being baptized, teenagers distraught by sin, young couple trying to understand love, young executives looking for meaning, middle-aged folks trying to remember the way, the old struggling under the burden of their years…How God has kept using this earthen vessel to bring to fulfillment the ancient words prayed over his head thirty-five years ago today:
And now we ask you, Lord: in our weakness give us also the helper that we need to exercise the priesthood that comes from the Apostles.
Almighty Father, grant, we pray, to this servant of yours the dignity of the priesthood…may he be a faithful steward of your mysteries, so that your people may be renewed in the waters of rebirth and nourished from your altar, so that sinners may be reconciled, and the sick raised up.
May he be joined with us, Lord, to implore your mercy for the people entrusted to his care and for all the world.
And so may all nations, gathered together in Christ, be transformed into your one people and be brought at last to the fullness of your kingdom….[through Christ our Lord]. Amen.