Does Jesus Minister to Us While We Minister for Him to Others?

Jesus in the Synagogue

The very second, the very moment that we get it in our heads no matter who we are that the Gospel lesson or admonition applies more to someone else than it does to us – is the very moment we become the indignant hometown crowd member Jesus speaks to in today’s Gospel.  Obviously, at this moment we must confess that we don’t wish to be that person and then let the grace given to us and the virtue of humility to grow in our hearts.  Every Gospel lesson applies to each of us and we must accept that it does (by faith and trust in the Lord) even if we cannot for the moment see the way that it does.

Pride and entitlement cannot ever get in the way of our faith and our vocation.  They can and they easily do.  Speaking as a priest, I know that there are many ways I have those moments where I feel I can speak from authority on things and I have it together more than others do.  I have those prideful and entitled moments.  I have been humbled in my pride already many times in my life, and while it stings – it’s been the best thing for me.  It has helped me quickly get down off my own “high horse” and realize that I need to hear the Gospel as much if not more than anyone else.  I also realize that any and all authority given to me by Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit through my ordination was not meant to think I am Jesus, but to do His work in the way He wants me to do, not in my own way.  As a humbled sinner, I speak to the men who discern with me about this and remind them of this too.  They are entering into a beautiful committed life with Christ, but they must also remember that they are entitled to nothing and they must be both ministers and recipients of the Good News.  This applies to all of us.  St. Peter and the rest of the Apostles as they founded the Church in Jesus Christ may have been given abundant graces for that purpose; but they also needed to be recipients of the Word until the ends of their earthly journey; same as all the saints, same as everyone else.

Let us remember this today and ask ourselves, are we journeymen with our Lord Jesus, or are we the hometown crowd who take credit for the works of the Lord as though they were our own?

Christ the Wellspring of Living Water: Reflecting on the First Scrutiny

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Today we celebrate the First Scrutiny in many of our parishes.  With the elect recently entered into our Book of Elect and preparing themselves in these remaining weeks of Lent to enter into the waters of baptism, seeking to die to self and live for Christ – today through Jesus’ Gospel encounter with the woman at the well; they (we) are reminded of our need for God who is Himself the wellspring and from Whom we have our thirst quenched and who gives us what we need to truly live.  As an adult convert, I recall as a Catechumen Elect, the preparation many years ago for this day, the first of my Scrutinies.  I remembered reflecting upon the many places in my soon-to-be “old life” where I “drew water”.  Drawing water from the desires and expectations of others in the world no long quenched my thirst.  Tasting the water of success, the water of other’s praise, the water of having enough money to quench my own thirst became tired and not fulfilling.  Even though my heart was becoming the Lord’s, I was still living with those things and while it seemed compelling to simply throw all those things off and totally and completely to live for Jesus – I was not ready for that.  The words were really sinking in though and the profound experience I had as an Elect was drawing me even closer to the Body of Christ where I would one day give up those things.  The profound grace and blessing I have been given is that because of my experience, I was able to be with RCIA groups most years ever since.  As a seminarian I was afforded the opportunities to journey with others and so, to reflect as well on these Scrutinies again as a catechist with them.  As a priest, to preach on the Gospel and to identify with the Elect as well.

Now as a Catholic Christian man with 15 years of Scrutinies under my belt, my reflection on this First Scrutiny is one I share with the committed Catholics today.  We need to pray for these people who seek to prepare themselves and will in short weeks be asking the Church for Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation.  The conversation this woman in today’s Gospel has with Jesus is one which each of us needs to stop and have with Our Lord today.  Do we still recognize Jesus at the places where we draw water from in our lives today?  Where we pray, our churches or our special places?  Are we drawing water and allowing Jesus to really and truly speak to us, or are we denying part of what our lives are or what they have become so we simply don’t have to deal?  If we are, then we need to be really honest with the Lord.  When the Elect go through the Scrutinies, they are reflecting on and allowing the Lord to accompany them on the journey into the waters which means repentance, acknowledgement of the darknesses that still exist, the hurts, the pains, the sorrows – the areas of our lives that just aren’t right yet.  The Light (of Christ) will come, but first we must acknowledge where we aren’t ready to be nourished and ask in this moment for the grace to let go and let God take over.

What does that mean for you?  I know what it means for me.  It means that as I pray for the Elect (and while it’s different for me right now, not in parish ministry: I pray in a more universal way), I also pray for the areas of my own life that are dark, where I haven’t been all that I can be for Jesus and for other people, the people He calls upon me to serve as a priest.  I pray for more strength to respond more generously, to acknowledge more truthfully and with greater clarity the wounds, issues, shortcomings and infidelities of my own heart – those areas I need to drink more wholly of the Living Water that has satiated me for all these year.  Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is my hope that all of us take this blessed day to do the same.

Reflecting on the Sacrament of Penance Today

Confession

The parable of the Prodigal Son is one of my favorites (because I can relate to the prodigal son and have experienced the Father’s love & mercy) and one that is the spring board for my RCIA talk on the Sacrament of Penance (from my parish days).  I use this parable for that purpose because it’s important for adult faith formation that we illustrate God’s love and mercy especially with a sacrament as beautiful, powerful, grace-filled, welcoming and embracing as the Sacrament of Penance is.  I speak from the perspective of an adult convert, and now as a priest who is both Confessor and Penitent: that the Sacrament of Penance embodies the elements of the relationship of the Prodigal Son and Father in the parable and that we must embrace it this way and trust that this is what God wants for each one of us, each time we receive this sacrament.

I believe we are moving into a time where more and more of us are once again embracing the Sacrament of Penance (aka Sacrament of Reconciliation, Sacrament of Confession) passing a time when it was becoming less and less common for the everyday Catholic Christian to receive it.  The Church requires it of us once a year, but this is a minimal guide.  Many receive the sacrament frequently and regularly.  It’s not only important for our souls, but also our disposition as penitential Christians who recognize how quickly we can become misguided in our thoughts and actions and how necessary it is for us to rid ourselves of these things and to give ourselves to the right things, of sharing our lives in Christ with others.  If we are often and abundantly aware of God’s love and mercy extended to us, we then will develop habits of extending love and mercy towards others too.

In my role now as Vocation Director, I speak about this with those discerning and with seminarians.  Although most have spiritual directors who give them advice on how often they should go to confession based on what they struggle with and how they struggle (balancing a good practice but not wanting a scrupulous devotion), it is important that men who are to one day (God willing) become confessors be first good penitents.  They too need God’s love and mercy in abundance and to have a sense of how our heart’s anguish is immediately and powerfully overcome by God’s embrace.

Confession is an act of faith and trust in the Lord plain and simple.  There are Catholics and non-Catholics out there who question this sacrament because we needn’t confess our sins to a priest, and in their considerations and reflections, place too much focus and emphasis on the priest.  I also know as a priest that I cannot allow myself to get in the way of Jesus’ salvific work.  My counsel is less important than the grace; the love and mercy poured forth.  The words of absolution and healing are God’s, not mine.  Stories perpetuate themselves and too many adults especially have heard the stories of the priests who are harsh and judgmental-seeming in the confessional.  I share with RCIA groups my one experience but amid the thousands of times I have now gone to confession.  Even in that one time, God’s love and mercy were received as I did my Act of Contrition and penance, I knew I was perfect in my relationship with God again.  I do not tell people that how the priest treated me was right or okay, but I reiterate for them that I needed to remind myself through my bruised ego that my mind and focus needs to be on God and not on the priest, who may have his own issues or even just had a bad day.  To place any more focus on the priest in good confessions or bad experiences is missing the point of the Sacrament of Penance and what we are there for.

Let us all take some time today to consider the blessings we receive when we approach the Sacrament of Penance with a contrite and ready heart and let us focus on the life we are prepared to live after we go: that is the Joy of the Gospel!!

Is Jesus the Cornerstone of Our Lives?

Is Jesus the cornerstone of your life?  I find myself well into my forties now, reflecting upon my life, more than 15 years of it now as a Christian.  I had a life already as I became Christian and as a priest ministering to people and living my life radically different from my early beginnings I look at what is the same and what is different.  I wonder sometimes if I have really and truly become a better man than I was in the early days of my life.  No doubt without the moral and ethical compass I have now in my teens and into my twenties I was living selfishly and lived for what I could get out of life, the world and others – without much meaning and purpose.  In that way, I am happily living for something greater now.  Where I challenge myself is where I can clearly see I like comfort and the remnants of the things that I considered selfish choices I made, sometimes those elements of my life remain and I fall into moments and occasions of returning to pre-Christian ways.  But I don’t live there.  The “house” I live in now belongs to Jesus and He is my Way, my Truth and my Life.  I am still a weak and sinful man, but the Lord in His love and mercy is not going anywhere and though I still find myself missing Him in areas and parts of my life, He is my cornerstone.

Today, our Gospel gives us all an occasion to reflect: is Jesus the cornerstone of the house we live in?  We must remember that He will be rejected, but are we rejecting Him?  If we are in any way, now (Lent) is the time for us to make amends and to begin again.

Have We Passed by & Not Noticed Lazarus

 

Rich Man & LazarusToday’s Gospel has always had a deep impact on me, especially as I find myself living in downtown Toronto right now.  I have asked myself many times, will I find myself in the rich man’s unfortunate shoes one day, having ignored someone in need?

I have wrestled with the most appropriate way to live out this Gospel experience.  Some people carry a lot of coin in their pockets and give to those who ask for it.  Some people buy a person on the street a sandwich, but I often find myself with little time to do that.  I am in no way averse to either of these things and there are times to do both, but outside of either of those opportunities, it is and always will be important to pray for others: and so the very least and most I can do is to smile, say hello or acknowledge a person in need and say a prayer for their needs.  If we have means to help, of course we should; but our help could be to give of our time, treasure or talents to help them in many different ways, not only in pocket change or a meal – but ultimately and most importantly not to simply offer others in need our pity and certainly not to overlook them.

Many years ago now, when I was visiting downtown Toronto; I remember seeing a very young man from afar asking for change.  In the 5 minutes I watched him, he didn’t get much of anything.  In fact, I was saddened by what I saw that he was virtually invisible.  From what I could tell, he was fairly recently on the streets but I was impressed that despite everyone ignoring him, he didn’t give up.  I didn’t have much to offer him, but gave what I could (was pittance as I recall) and said hello to him, which seemed to be something.  Now, I’m not telling you this for a pat on my own back.  It was that encounter and my many reflections on this Gospel that have led me to believe that whether I can help out with money or food, I must never overlook people.  When we become desensitized to others, when we become indifferent to others around us – we lose our God-given humanity and we will find ourselves in the place of the rich fool.  We will be accountable for our actions, which we aren’t even aware of and we won’t know what to do with it when we are presented with those actions.

So what to do?  We may be prepared and ready to move forward and to try our very best not to ignore people from today and every day forward, but what about the people (maybe even the many people) we’ve ignored or overlooked, the people we were indifferent to yesterday or previously in our lives?  Pray for them now!  Spend some time before the Lord now and pray for them now, invoke the prayers of your favorite saint to pay for them now.  You may not feel it right now, but if that’s what you do to rectify the past and make the commitment today and moving forward not to be indifferent and not to overlook people – be assured that when the time comes for You to meet the Lord face to face, everyone will recognize you for the prayers you offered for them; a powerful and important gift.

 

Entitlement is Not Part of God’s Plan for Us

One of most deadly dispositions to any religious vocation (maybe every vocation in general) is having a general attitude of entitlement.  This is something that I stress with the people I work with as a Vocation Director, most especially the seminarians and those who are close to becoming seminarians.  Entitlement is a belief or attitude that you deserve something and it is problematic on many different levels but I share with you today two of my main difficulties with entitlement.  Our Gospel today shows that this was a very human reality and stirring in the hearts even among the Apostles (and their parents).

First of all, it completely contradicts the proper attitude that most people have when they begin their vocational discernment.  Usually we all start off feeling a tremendous sense that we are unworthy of what we are being called by the Lord to do, and that sense of unworthiness is important.  It demonstrates a sense of awareness of the Divine Nature of our vocation and a healthy sense of unworthiness which I believe might be similar to what St. Peter felt when he said to Our Lord: “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a weak and sinful man”.  A sense of unworthiness to what God calls us to suggests that we understand to some degree, if even only somewhat, that God calls us to something that is profound, amazing and beyond our human capacity and capability to understand.  As we grow in our vocation, we come to see that we will bring our humanity, hopefully in its best and most purified form, constantly seeking greater purity – and the Lord our God will do the rest.  Our vocation is to participate in His Divine Plan.  Entitlement happens when we rest in a sense that we deserve what we receive, and so thus pride and a lack of a true sense of ourselves dominate our thinking.  It can be deadly, especially when we don’t receive what we think we’re entitled to.

I offer my other thought today as a priest, and this is something that I speak about with seminarians at times.  People love their priests and religious.  Even those, especially those who are called to different vocations (Holy Marriage, Generous Single Life in Christ) are so appreciative and thankful for what they receive that many times they will share of their abundance with their priests and religious.  I know as a priest that people were very generous at Christmas time and they lovingly invited priests into their homes and lives and often lavish us with generosity and gifts.  When a priest departs, the people he has served are also generous and I know that this was something I experienced as a seminarian first.  When I was on my pastoral internship year and then when I was ordained both a transitional deacon first and a then a priest, the people who journeyed with me, prayed for me and supported me in every possible way were extremely generous.  Knowing all of this, if seminarians feel a sense of entitlement in any way this will worsen for them as priests.  If they love and serve with all their hearts and souls, they will gauge their successes and failures on “what they get” which will leave them feeling disappointed and isn’t what we serve for.  Also, there will be a constant feeling of expectation of something more.  Obviously, if this is coupled with other emotional issues; men could become bitter, resentful, hostile towards the people they serve.  None of these things benefit Our Lord, His Church or getting ourselves to heaven as joyful and dedicated Christians.

The Good News is that while in our own examinations of conscience, we may come to see where we’ve acted entitled and developed a tendency that we know we need to overcome, God’s Grace is abundant.  Go back to the beginning of your discernment…remember that sense of unworthiness because it was of the Lord and remember that while He gives us His generous gift of Himself and the tools we need to serve Him worthily – that it is in Jesus that we find all our own worthiness, not in ourselves and as He offered His Apostles, that if we want to carry His Glory, we need to carry His Cross as well.  May God bless you.

Calling Servants to be Shepherds for Jesus

The last thing any Vocation Director (but most definitely this Vocation Director) looks for in a candidate for seminary and ultimately the priesthood is someone who fits the description of the religious leaders Jesus describes in today’s Gospel.  Someone whom we have to say, “listen to Father as he is your pastor/spiritual father but don’t do what he does”, who has chosen the choice portion in life for himself and forget others.  We are not looking for priests who are about placing hardships on others and seeking the easy life for themselves.  Unfortunately, that happens and hopefully because we’ve made the mistake of taking men with that predisposition in the past who have done damage to the Body of Christ that way, we are on the lookout for such men and hopefully for my own part in all of this – not admitting such men to the seminary.

Instead, we are looking for men who love God and who have servant’s and shepherd’s hearts.  We are looking for men who will take care of themselves as it’s important that they last and endure but who put the needs of the people, and even one person before their own needs (as Jesus would do).  We are looking for men who will become the kind of priest that many in the congregation will look to and want to be like; saints in the making.  Men who help carry the burden of their people as they walk side by side their people carrying their burden.  Men who are kind, merciful, not judgmental, caring and forgiving, men who may be sinners but who visit the confessional regularly themselves.  Men who lead by example and who are examples of how to go about being a good Christian rather than how not to.

Do you know any of these men?  I do.  For I can honestly say that St. Augustine’s Seminary has many of these men in formation for the Archdiocese of Toronto.  One of the great blessings this Vocation Director shares is knowing that the men who are in formation for this archdiocese are the kinds of men who will make good priests.  In fact, so good that it places necessary pressure on me and my team to constantly find ways to help men discern.  It also gives me reassurance and comfort to ask our seminarians to be key players in vocation work.  I believe and have seen the importance of having them as part of the vocation team, encouraging other men to join their ranks.  And then I am amazed at the caliber of men the Lord calls forth from there.  More amazing men present themselves continually.

That – is thanks to the good people in the Archdiocese of Toronto.  Since there might be someone reading this from somewhere else, I hope it is the case where you’re from too.  I know that the holy people of this archdiocese pray for vocations and in doing so, their prayers are answered.  Men step forward, not in droves but I’m glad in many ways that it’s not that way.  Chosen men step forward.

On this day I give thanks for what we have, ask we pray for more of the same; servants and shepherd’s after the Sacred Heart of the Master and also ask for prayers for myself and the people I work with that we may be strong and discerning to find the kinds of priests our people deserve and for the seminary faculty that they may form these men to be Shepherds after His Own Heart.

Lent: A Good Time to Work on A More Positive Disposition

Jesus calls each of us to consider our personal (Christian) disposition with His words in today’s Gospel.  He reminds us to be merciful and not to judge.  He reminds us to forgive and seek forgiveness when we’ve wronged others.  He reminds us to give generously.

How many times have we been merciless in our judgment of someone who didn’t share our belief in God and was critical of God or religion?  Or maybe because someone’s moral or ethical standards weren’t the same as ours, did something which we might consider unacceptable or unreasonable?  How many times have you said to someone else or even just to yourself, “I just can’t forgive that person”?  I ask the question of myself as well because as I do a prayerful inventory of those I have been merciless with, judgmental of, unforgiving towards – I can think of a few.  In fact, I can think of many years of hanging on to stuff and carrying it in my heart which made for me, barriers in relationship and barriers to growth in my spiritual life and relationship with God.  Thank goodness I’ve had someone in my life to begin to point out some of these things to me, which has led me to continue to be watchful of where I judge, where I lack mercy and compassion, where I hang on to things and don’t forgive, where I am much less charitable and generous than I should be.  And then, I make the regular practice of confession and receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation – which is one of God’s many ways of extending these things to me.  God leads the way on giving mercy to us and forgiving us, and if we have a proper understanding of the Sacrament, we know we are not judged in the confessional.

If we have let regular confession go, Lent is a wonderful time to renew our commitment.  Many of my reflections during Lent tie into this beautiful Sacrament.  I have experienced some of the most grace-filled moments as both a penitent and a confessor there.  I truly believe there are many conversions pouring forth from the confessional.  Pope Francis speaks often and well of his own conversion, vocation and the strength of his priestly ministry from the confessional.  There are many other stories.

Today’s Gospel calls us to act mercifully, non-judgmentally, to forgive and seek forgiveness and to be generous in heart and spirit.  It’s upon us to act in this way, but allow yourself first to be given these generous gifts from God – He desires it, and it’s as close as your local parish church.  Friends, we all need to work harder at being the kind of people Jesus calls us to be today: the world needs us, our brothers and sisters need it and when we come together on this one, we can really get on with the work of making this world a much better place for those out there who don’t yet know our Lord and Saviour.

Second Sunday of Lent: In God We Trust

Transfiguration

One of the most important “learnings” (or re-learnings for most of us) on the Christian journey is to learn how to trust; in particular – to Trust God.  God has never given any of us a reason not to trust Him, although we sometimes see things that way.  People give us many reasons not to trust them, we even give ourselves reasons not to be trusted and thus to be untrusting of others.  Whatever those reasons or circumstances we need to re-learn how to trust God as Christians.  In today’s First Reading at Mass, we hear the story of Abraham and Isaac and it may seem from our vantage point that God plays with Abraham to see how close he will come to trusting Him and then at the final moment stops the plan to sacrifice or kill Isaac and praises Him for His steadfast trust.  I know that I have heard many reflections on this Gospel from a humanistic point of view give us a sense of God’s desire for blind and complete devotion to Him.  In fact, nothing could be more superficial because it would be wrong for us to assume that was His relationship with Abraham.  Instead, I would suggest that this Gospel highlights trusting in God no matter what the circumstances.  God is not telling Abraham to sacrifice or kill his son, but instead to trust in Him.

The same can be said for the Apostles today as they spend time with the Lord on the mountain and He is Transfigured before their very eyes.  As we can see in this Gospel, there’s not a lot made clear, there’s not a lot of understanding given them here.  Instead, they encounter a foretaste of heaven which they will have to hang onto when the tough days which lay ahead come to them.  They are yet to experience the Paschal Mystery, and when they do the faith and trust that is being built up here, is going to be tested to be certain.

So too is this something that we need to ponder with our own Christian lives.  Are we ready to trust totally and completely in the Lord?  Are we giving thanks everyday for what we are given and the grace and blessing, the Glory of God we experience each time we have an encounter with the Lord in prayer, through the Sacraments, in our faith communities?  Are we ready for the time when each one of us will be called upon to fully participate in the Paschal Mystery (the suffering, death, Resurrection and then participation with the Communion of Saints) which we will be called to do?  Do we listen for the voice of God calling out: “Behold, this is my Beloved with whom I am well pleased!”  He declares us beloved too as we join our Lord in the Sacraments.  We join our Lord as we live out lives of Discipleship, lives committed to deep and committed vocations.

Let us consider the faith and trust we have in the Lord our God today and every day of our lives.

Loving One Another as Jesus Did

exaltation of the cross

Today’s reflection is my homily given to the Associates, men in our Pre-Seminary Formation Program in the Archdiocese of Toronto.

I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the “Golden Rule”, but it was popular in decades past and even in some places now, and while there is nothing inherently harmful in the notion of the Golden Rule; its popularity surrounds a desire to demonstrate for us how much alike many religions really are and I’ve heard it said “how we are all rivers flowing into the same ocean”.

My reflection this morning is not to bash the Golden Rule, a somewhat flawed but well-meaning theology.  If you know the Golden Rule, you might know it from school – many Catholic Schools display it prominently and it makes sense to me to have the Golden Rule there; where many of the students are not Catholic and even many of the Catholic students have a very limited understanding of their faith that it gives them, at least, a sense of why we should love and embrace others.  The Golden Rule offers us a series of altruistic maxims which for us as committed Catholics should not be the limit for us in our Catholic Christian faith.

What I mean is that we must allow ourselves to delve more deeply into what Jesus offers us; the profound mystery that comes from God’s Son, which we as Christians have.  That may mean little to others, but it is by faith everything for us.  The maxim closely associated with today’s Gospel is “love each another as you love yourself”.

It may seem fine for us as Catholic Christians to seek to live in this way but this provides us with only a superficial understanding and desire to live as Jesus calls us to.  Often this comes from a sense that I can only love as is humanly possible, and to love beyond that is for God or Divine, which is hoped for but not likely to be achieved in this life – wrong.  Jesus tells us so.

In John’s Gospel (13:34), Jesus says “love one another, as I have loved you”.  He calls us to love our enemies, pray for those who do us harm. Brothers, this is a totally different kind of love that we are called to as Catholic Christians, as Catholic Christian men.  Of course all Christians are called to live in this way as our Lord commands it, but this is the kind of love that must be a total gift of ourselves for Christ and for all.  Not just some, or our people, but for all.

It is this total gift of love, this agape love which is what urges us on and gives us the strength, courage and the gift of the Holy Priesthood and the gift of Celibacy to live out the Holy Priesthood.  It may be that you haven’t thought or reflected upon this Gospel in this way before, but I’d like you to ponder it now.  Even if we haven’t figured out at this moment whether God has given you the gift of the priestly vocation, or the gift of the celibate vocation to live a life of total love (giving and receiving love in a complete way) so that you may be joyful as a priest and completely engaged with others in the world; even if we haven’t figured this out, my hope brothers, is that you look at the priests you know and others you’ve met throughout your lives, the joys we share with you, you’re able to see these gifts can be lived out positively, joyfully, with complete love and the complete engagement of who we are & who we are meant to be.  And while we are, all of us, incomplete and sometimes weak instruments of the Lord – what should occur to you is that we are men who are trying to respond & grow in the awareness and response to these gifts day by day.

Today’s Gospel deepens our sense of the kind of love Jesus calls us all to as Christians, but the kind of love that is absolutely necessary and essential for the priesthood.  A sacrificial and complete love; a love that is not about counting the cost to ourselves of what we do, a love that is complete in both giving and receiving but in which we trust the Lord on the receiving part and focus on the giving.  I tie this to the priesthood, and I might say most especially the Diocesan Priesthood, because we are perhaps the priesthood most closely connected to the world.  Although we must go beyond naming the individuals or groups we don’t like, and calling them enemies.  We are in the midst of rampant secularism, individualism, liberalism and so many other things that attack humanity.  These things are our enemies and yet we need to be beacons of love and kindness in the midst of all that.  We need to be joyful in the midst of all of that.

We live in a world that is becoming more hostile, more aggressive, more self-serving, and selfish and we need to love with greater intensity in the midst of all of that.

This is not just being good people in good ways; this is profoundly living the Gospel, surrendering ourselves to it in fact in the midst of the chaos of everything else going on all around us.  Being real and not living with our heads in the clouds.

Not attacking others or criticizing everyone but embracing as Christ embraced.  This is the Christian life and it is most definitely the agape, or deepest form of love we are called to and which is expected of our priests in the world today.  Loving our enemies does not mean accepting hateful behaviour, it means having the strength of conviction and faith to love past hateful behaviour or actions.  Praying for those who persecute us, doesn’t mean praying for their demise or diminishment; it means praying for them with love and in humility praying for a deeper sense of love for them, maybe conversion but most certainly for God’s Presence in their heart.  Surely many early Christians prayed for Saul of Tarsaus which led to St. Paul’s own encounter with the Lord Jesus Himself and his total conversion.

Brothers, today’s Gospel is Jesus’ call for each one of us to go deeper: for us priests to go deeper in the living out of our own vocation, in your reflection upon the vocation you feel in your heart the Lord calling you to. Our vocation must be lived out with the kind of love ascribed for us in the Gospel today, nothing less.  If all we are living by is what amounts to the Golden Rule – we must move beyond!  We must surrender to the Lord and seek to be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect and realize with absolutely joy-filled hearts that we must continue in this Christian journey towards perfection and stop at nothing short or nothing less.  May God bless you.