Mark 4: 35-41
Last Friday was the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It was also the 50th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. I was ordained with 13 others by Bishop Cuthbert O’Gara a Passionist Bishop who had been jailed and finally exiled from China. Of the 14 ordained 5 of us are still in active ministry. Seven left and married, three are dead.
The other day someone asked me if I had to do all over again would I do it. My answer was yes. I would do some things, maybe many things differently but thank God these past 50 years have been good to me. I like using that quote from the book A Complicated Kindness in which a young woman describes her life as “an embarrassment of blessings.” Certainly my life has been an embarrassment of blessing.
I have to tell you that what has been the greatest support to me these past 50 years of priesthood is seeing you good people live out your own priesthood. Our Baptism has made us all priests. We don’t hear too much about the priesthood of the faithful but through baptism we are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people set apart. A priest offers the sacrifice of the Mass. But I have been inspired by the many sacrifices you good parents make in raising your children and staying together as a family. A priest baptizes infants into the life of the church but it has been wonderful to see so many of you live out your priesthood as you pass on the faith to these children by the example of your own lives. A priest celebrates reconciliation with people but you good people do the same as you heal old wounds and let go of past hurts and bring about family peace and harmony. The priest anoints the sick but how many of you sustain the sick by your presence to them in their hours of isolation and loneliness and as you care for aging parents or spouses? A priest preaches the good news and so do you. You preach your faith and trust in God as you face and overcome life’s crises and disappointments and as you celebrate the joys and wonders of your lives.
In living out our priesthoods there are many times when we experience the distance of God, the absence of God in our lives. Like the disciples in today’s gospel caught up in that violent, life threatening storm how often have we asked the seemingly sleeping Christ, “Lord, do you not care that we are perishing’? Do you not care we are being swamped by so many worries and frights? Think of the number of times we were convince God was asleep, God was not interested in our anxieties and confusions. Our faith was tested and maybe found wanting when we wondered, ‘is it worth all this trouble?” But in those times of testing Jesus was using tough love to invite our faith to go deeper. In time the winds did cease and there was a great calm and we came to know that God was with us all along and we carried on.
It’s true this is an important milestone in my life – I never thought I’d last this long. I believe the best way to celebrate this anniversary is to celebrate and give thanks for the priesthood we all share in our baptism, praying for each other that as we live our priesthood in the ordinary living of our ordinary lives the love of Christ will urge us on, so that we may live no longer for ourselves but for Him and for each other and together remain in His love.