This past Friday, the 7th of May, marked ten years since Fr Larry Rustia and I knelt before Bishop Pat that he might lay hands on us, and ordain us as priests. It is with that anniversary in mind that I have reflected on our readings for this Sunday.
The conclusion of the Gospel gives us four great truths on which to meditate. In a message that is for all of us, but has, perhaps a special resonance for priests, we are reminded that the Lord chose us. If we think we chose to follow the Lord, or to pursue a priestly vocation, we must remember that we did so only because He called us first. It is a humbling thought that the Lord of all the universe desired to call me to His service. As St Peter tells Cornelius, who is kneeling before him, “I am only a man, after all.”
But it was in my fallible, mortal, humanity that the Lord called me, and indeed called all of us. I was no more virtuous or worthy than any other (my family would probably say less so), and yet I was commissioned to go and bear fruit that will last. Each of us shares that call through our baptism, different as our respective vocations will make its expression. And if we follow that call, we will indeed see fruit.
Looking back, I can contemplate with joy the masses offered, the weddings and baptisms celebrated, and perhaps especially the wonder of the celebration of God’s love and mercy in the sacrament of Penance. If I know that indeed all of this is the work of the Lord, there is still much contentment in knowing that I have co-operated with His grace in all of this. That opportunity is there in all our lives, and if we take it, we will all see those fruits in our lives.
The heart of that co-operation is the call to love. It is Jesus’ final call to his disciples, then and now. If we are to bear fruit, this is what we must do. I know, all too well, that if I do anything, even celebrate the sacraments, for myself, for my own gratification, or for my own benefit, then I will gain little. God’s grace will still work through them, but they will not touch me. Ironically, it is when I seek the good of others, when I follow the commandment to love, that I gain most. So it is with all our vocations.
It is in that context that we can hear the fourth of the Lord’s statements – that we may ask what we will, and the Father will give it to us. It is when we hear the Lord’s call and seek to love one another, that our will is conformed to His, and all that we then desire will be. It is then that we will know the fulfilment of the Lord’s promise that His joy will be in us and our joy complete.
I have seen the truth of that in my life and ministry, if yet still partial and incomplete. Pray for me, and for all of us, that we may know its fullness.
Fr Chris Denham