When you guys started teasing me about preaching to you last week I thought I better read the scriptures to begin thinking about what I might say.
And to my chagrin… it was this passage where Jesus tells disciples that even though they think understand, even though they think they get it
They will not remain faithful and that they will all abandon him.
Oh boy I said to myself, wonderful I’m going to tell some of the finest theologians around that knowing is not enough. Great…
But the more I thought about it and prayed about it there is indeed an important message here for all of us to hear in this passage.
Think about it even though they “got it” even though they thought they understood when Jesus was arrested the Apostles still lost heart and they abandoned him.
Why did they run and hide when they were just starting to understand.
The fact of the matter is simple. Their knowledge was simply not enough
They needed something more…
Something more was required for their fidelity
And that something was and is a life giving relationship,
a relationship rooted in and sustained by love.
In chapter 15 of the Gospel of John Jesus said “Greater Love than this no one has than to lay down his life for his friends."
It would seem then that love and laying down your life go hand in hand.
Knowing someone or something is one of God’s most incredible gifts.
Often the knowledge we have of something or someone else is the first thing that attacks us them.
And with the gift of knowledge we can go deeper and deeper into the mystery of the other.
But just knowing about someone is rarely enough for us to be willing to suffer for them
or die for them.
The disciples scattered because even though they began to know Jesus better
their love for him was not yet strong enough.
We all know that eventually everyone of them would get it and everyone of them would willingly give their lives for Jesus whom they loved.
And so dear brothers… this gospel reading should call us all to examine our hearts
How strong is our love for Christ
How strong is our love for the Church
How passionate is our love?
And when we are able to truthfully answer questions like these then we will know
how much of our life are we willing to give away,
how much of our life we are willing to lay down for Christ, and his people, the Church.
Will we stay or will we run?
He loves us either way.
And I know in my life
running doesn’t necessarily mean leaving…
sadly running often means compromising.
Running often means getting and working to stay comfortable.
It is so easy to go about our business or busyness and allow our hearts to grow lukewarm or even cold.
It is so easy to forget the passion that brought us to this place.
Sadly sometimes it seems that for so many of our brothers
the incredible gift of our vocation to the priesthood or religious life is just burdensome.
They or we are tired, and lonely and fed up,
They or we have been disappointed just one too many times,
or even worse…
sometimes they or we get the “father knows best syndrome”
where they or we think that only our view and our perspective seem to matter…
What a mess that turns out to be.
I have come to believe that the one best ways for a priest to avoid all of the above
is the company of priests.
And when I say priests for those of us who live in religious communities
I also include Brothers or friars or monks in that older traditon and even, the Jesuits.
Living in the company of fellow priests and religious is such an incredible gift.
Some might disagree and there are always exceptions…
but I really only feel comfortable being myself in the company of priests.
I only feel comfortable really comfortable sharing my feelings and doubts and weaknesses in the company of priests and religious.
I say things to you that I just would not feel right about saying to others.
A priest or religious can be most vulnerable with other priests.
There is no one like a fellow priest or religious to put you in your rightful place,
Or put things in perspective.
Recently I was all worked up about something… and someone in this room a fellow priest listened very patiently and when I had finished spewing out my… concerns or frustration and resentments
He simply looked at me and said…
Get over it.
(I could not have received better advice.)
The unpretentious subtle example of good priests and religious is such a wonderful thing
Yesterday when I was fishing for homily points at breakfast.. as I often do..
by the way some of you are a little stingy.
One of you said.. plagiarize St. Augustine from Office of Readings today…
I hadn’t said Office of Readings… but I did later because he had reminded me to.
When we are in the company of our fellow Priests and Religious in the “drink room” or at the table…
Its about being together.
It’s about sharing our day and the gossip of the University.
It’s about being together like any family.
We laugh… we share each others concerns..
we feel free to ask questions or express our frustrations.
We tease each other… and we all know deep in our hearts
that we are in the company of good men
who share a call for which none of us are worthy.
I’m afraid that during my years, here especially my first years, I really didn’t commit enough to this community and I didn’t commit enough to you. Please forgive me.
You know Jesus didn’t tell the Apostles they would all scatter to make them feel bad.
He wasn’t saying you bunch of losers you are all going to abandon me.
And in fact at the moment they didn’t seem to believe him.
They all thought that they would be faithful and that he was talking to someone else.
He foretold their lack of fidelity because when it happened when fear took over
when they ran and hid…
they would remember that what Jesus had foretold and that he still loved him.
Brothers those words were not meant only for the Apostles
they were also meant for us and they are meant for the whole Church
No matter how far we fall
no matter how much we mess up
Or how… discouraged we become…
Jesus loves us
He loves us so much he called us to this wonderful life
Despite our messiness.
And just like he conquered the world
He can also conquer our sins and our weakness
And the sins and weaknesses of our brothers
And the sins and weaknesses of the whole Church
Let us always be filled with great hope…
Thank you for 12 wonderful years.