As we welcome the families and friends of all our brothers in this holy house, I think of my own parents who first brought me to seminary some forty two years ago. My father has since died and my mother’s health is fading. And here I am, in my early sixties (with emphasis on the word early). How life goes by…how everything changes.
Everything except the Lord. He was there at the beginning, he through whom all things were made, he who named me in my mother’s womb.. He will be there at the end of time, sitting on a cloud to judge the living and the dead.
And he is there at every moment in between.
Stilling the hearts of an anxious seminarian, overwhelming him with his grace, and with an unlimited supply of enthusiasm, hope and passion.
He is there.
Inspiring the soul of the newly ordained, urging him on to save the world, to evangelize the margins and to do great things for Christ and for his Church.
He is there.
Guiding the actions of the middle aged pastor, making him wise and patient and slow to judge…kind and giving but unwavering from the truth.
He is there.
Strengthening the limbs of the aging priest, weighed down by the burden of his years, tired of everything except the altar of God, which even in his dotage brings joy to his youth.
He is there.
Quietly closing the eyes of the priest about to die, singing the Nunc Dimittis and granting him eternal rest in the arms of God.
He is there. Always and at every moment of our lives. The place where God makes all one in him.
One in Christ
To be one with Christ at this Altar means we are one with every person who prays before every altar throughout the world. I remember when I first went off to seminary, it seemed so far away from my home, my family and my old friends and the life I used to have. And no matter how many times I meditated on the calling of the disciples or tried to hear the Lord’s voice saying “Come, Follow me,” it was still so hard not to look back and to focus ahead.
One seminarian, not of Saint John’s, had just such a tough time his first year, away from home, away from friends and everything which had provided him with such support and security. He thought of leaving innumerable times and prayed repeatedly for God’s grace…just to do his will. I spoke to him recently after he had returned from his summer apostolate and he was a completely changed man. His eyes are now firmly fixed on the extraordinary surprises God has waiting for him over the next horizon. His heart no longer clings to the securities of the past. He has abandoned himself to following the Son of Man, who often has no place to lay his head. He only wants to be joined to that Altar, to be obedient to God.
One in holiness
The God who invites us to holiness, to be transformed in him.
When I was a little kid I thought I knew what holiness way. It was to look like those dusty old plaster statues, with a placid look on your face, gazing longingly beyond this vail of tears to the eternal glories of heaven.
What I was missing was how you get to be holy. It’s hard work accepting God’s grace and struggling to reflect the love of Christ and let go of my own stubborn desires for fame and fortune and calling the shots.
But God can make you holy, if only you let him. God can so change our hearts by the mysteries we celebrate here that we forgive rather than judge, that we seek out the ones whom everyone else would reject just to love them. God can so change us that we speak the truth, even when they will hate us for it. God can so change us that we rejoice, like Mary, in our littleness rather than trying to grab for all the gusto we can get. God can so change us that we seek only to decrease that he may increase. God can so change me that you no longer see me, but Christ Jesus in me.
Through the mysteries of this altar God can do anything, even make me holy.