I just went for the readings of today, not because of laziness on my part, but I truly believe that whenever we come to celebrate these sacred mysteries God’s Word will always have something to say to all of us. Some times when we read or listen to the scriptures we can paint an idealistic picture – we might hear of one of the great miracles of Jesus or the exemplary retelling of the prophets or apostles. We are encouraged to do this and it is tricky if not difficult to balance the big picture with the small details. So much so that when we hear scripture we can wish that we were there in those times – because let’s face it: today it is tough to be a Christian, to be Catholic, to celebrate our faith openly, courageously and enthusiastically – if only we could be there with Jesus then things would be so much easier. It would be great for me because my age would be more in keeping with the apostles so I might not be counted so much as a late vocation!! But then again being in those times would actually have its own worries and problems – there were people in those times who didn’t know the significance of being in the presence of God. Abraham was 99 years when God made his covenant with him and Sarah – he struggled to comprehend how God would act. And then with the leper in the Gospel it is nearly like a pantomime as he says – if you want to – it reminds me of that Dickens story of the young boy going to ask for more food – more food!! As if the leper had a twisted or distorted view of Jesus – a view that perhaps Jesus wasn’t in the mood to deal with this person – something akin to when some priests or some people aren’t quite in the mood to help out a particular person on any given day. There is also the humility that springs forth from the mouth of the leper but the response of Jesus, as with God in the encounter with Abraham, is one of mercy. And it is this mercy that we celebrate tonight that the world is in such a need for.
For me then, it is the way in which we approach God, we may not always have the right language or the right view of things but we struggle on with hope.
The point of Jesus coming down from the mountain could be seen as its all down hill from there on – plain sailing, he had just delivered his great sermon on the mount, turning hearts on fire, large crowds following him – happy days!! Just like for me yesterday, such a great and blessed day – crowded for photographs which I really love, greeting so many family members and friends – and then not many of you will know – I was faced with the reality of priesthood today – complete abandonment. There were a few people hanging around, some cleaning up, some chatting, and there was I, ready to make my triumphal entrance into the City hotel – little did I realise that my mum, my dad, my brothers and sisters, all of them had left me there in the Church car park – thank God for a few lost sisters that rushed to my aid!!
Ok so I jest, but we really are at the mercy of God – even in the good times. I was absolutely shaking before the start of the ordination ceremony, I could think of another few words, but I’ll stick with shaking, as I came to the Church yesterday – but with prayer, a few kinds actions from my excellent MC and a few fine words from Fr Neil, I was able to make my way up this aisle. It was only as I listened to Bishop McKeown’s homily that I was able to relax, to abandon myself to God’s mercy.
It was those words of being impelled by the love of Christ and that quote from St Vincent: seek God and you will find him, seek him in all things and you will find him in all things; seek him always and you will always find him. These words pushed home the need to hand things over to God because he has worked such great marvels in my life, and yes there may be times of difficulty ahead but he will still be there and he will do great things because he wants to – that is what the mercy of God is – to intervene in humanity so that his Word, his Son Jesus Christ, can bring about our redemption.
I was also worried about this homily as I got it confused with a similar account in the Gospel of Mark – only in that version it finishes with the leper, well a possessed man I think, by going off and doing the exact opposite to what Jesus asked him to do – the worry being that my mum or my dad might hear that disobedience and try to persuade me not to go off to Argentina – as if I would even try and be disobedient to my provincial. In all seriousness Jesus offers us the way to eternal life and I couldn’t be more happier or thrilled to be going to the other side of the world because I know I have so many good wishes and prayers backing me up. Let us continue to pray for each other, that with Mary and through the actions of the Holy Spirit, we may keep the presence of Jesus truly alive in our Church and in our world.