Today’s blog posting is my homily for the Scarborough-Durham Regional Altar Server Awards at St. Barnabas in Scarborough: A couple of years ago when I was training with Fr. Hansoo who was the Vocation Director before me, I was at a Young Men’s High School retreat. Maybe Fr. Hansoo remembers this: I’ve never forgotten it, but a young man who was in Grade 10 at the time answered a question that was asked of the whole group: what does it mean to be a Christian and a disciple of the Lord. His response was simple and yet profound and powerful. “To get to heaven and to take as many people with you as you can”.
After 7 years of seminary and at least 2 years of preaching by then, I couldn’t and I wouldn’t have said it better myself. This young man who might have been 16 years old certainly gave me pause to reflect and I remember that to this day: more than a year later.
What I’m sharing with you here is of threefold importance for us all: first of all, that this young man, close in age or not much older than any of you was given by God this profoundly wise understanding of what Jesus wants us all to remember. Also that just because we grow in learning, wisdom, experience in life doesn’t mean we grasp any better what our Lord wants us to know – so as we grow in knowledge all of us need to be humble enough to learn from others, even from people we might least expect to learn from AND that we need to be open to hearing what are the right reasons for rejoicing in our faith – for every single one of us, reaching heaven is our goal and bringing as many other people with us as we can, by seeking to do God’s will each day in our lives.
That is the essence of our lives. That is what Jesus teaches the disciples in today’s Gospel. That is what we are quite simply but most profoundly put are these disciples and the lesson today is as much ours as it was for those who stood before Jesus amazed by what they had done. Jesus gave them a reality check, He informed them that it was (and always is) what the Lord has done through them. We need to always give thanks to God for what He can and will use us for and never allow ourselves to be amazed at what we can do on our own. What I’m talking about here today concerns all of us and is a really important message we need to hear and be reminded of: we have all received the same mission that was given to the 72 disciples. To preach Jesus as Lord and Saviour. We may have success as well as failure when we bear witness to Jesus & His teachings. But we have reason to rejoice when our attempts to share the message may not seem visibly successful because if we stay true to who we are (followers of Christ) we are assured of great rewards in heaven. We rejoice because like the disciples; we have Jesus with us in the Holy Eucharist, we have Him with us in the Gospels we hear, pray over, reflect upon, we get closer & closer to Him in prayer and through the Sacraments. Not just kind of …really…truly. My dear altar servers, the Bishop, your parish priests, your families – we all come together today to honour the important work you do as disciples. Serving at the altar is important. In addition to the visible witness & example you give to all of us, showing us how the youth care about their faith, our Lord, the Sacraments and serving – there are many things which may lay hidden. As most of your priests and the bishop would tell you, all of us grew in our calling by serving at the altar. Because I work with many religious sisters too, I know that many sisters really grew stronger in their faith & desire to serve as altar servers too. For the bishop and all of us priests, when we were in the seminary, we experienced something similar to what you are today. We had the bishop come to the seminary, and in a very serious way install us as acolytes. This was an important part of our vocation to priesthood and it was a point when for all of us, it became more real that we were called to give ourselves in discipleship and an important part of our journey to priesthood. Not all of you will become priests or religious sisters, but we pray to the Lord that some of you will! But you will all, if your open to it will find your right vocation; the one you and the Lord choose together! It might be marriage, it might be to remain single dedicated to the Lord & others. It might be priesthood or religious life. You too will rejoice in whatever it is you do & the Lord will do great things for you & with you. My young friends, I want us to pause for a moment after this, and thank God right now for all He has done for you and continues to do for you and for others through you. Never, never underestimate what your work for the Lord means to your parish community, but to all of us. Your will get a beautiful medallion here today and you should be proud of it, but there is much more you do and should continue to do to help the Lord and His Church, and much of that we will rejoice in heaven over when we all get there with many, many others. May God bless you!