Sunday, December 7, 2014

Turning 21 on the New Year of the Church


I find it significant that my 21st anniversary as priest coincides this year with the 1st Sunday of Advent. To me, 21 is the number of adulthood. In the ordinary reckoning of years, a boy becomes a man on the age 21. This tells me today that I am no longer a “teenager” priest. As a priest, I enter today into a new phase of the ministry: one that is definitely past the honeymoon stage but hopefully, a ministry that is more mature.

In the holy gospel, the Lord speaks of himself as “a man traveling abroad” who “leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.” These works spoke particularly to me. They reminded me of who I am as a priest: a servant of the Master who has left home to travel abroad. He left me home with a charge, a responsibility to fulfill. The tendency of servants is to take things lightly when the master is away: when the cat is away, the mice go out to play. And so, the prophet Isaiah laments in the 1st reading: “Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?” There is always the temptation to be complacent, to think that the master is taking too long in returning…and complacency leads to that kind of tepidity that the Lord detests: You are neither hot nor cold…and therefore I shall spit you out of my mouth!

The Lord warns us today: “Watch, therefore, you do not know when the lord of the house is coming…May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.” How I fear to be caught sleeping by the Lord on his return! Does this mean that I must keep myself busy with activities…to drown myself in work?  The prophet Isaiah prays: “Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways!” The Lord expects to meet me doing right and to be mindful of him in all my ways. I may be very busy with a lot of concerns but “all our good deeds (can be) like polluted rags and we (can be) withered like leaves, and our guilt (can) carry us away like the wind.” All these because I fail to be mindful of him in my ways. “There is none who calls upon you, who rouses himself to cling to you.”

As I write this homily, my dog Fifi sits on my lap and she looks intently at me. Suddenly, she becomes to me a sign of what the Lord expects me to do: to labor for him with my eyes fixed intently on him. He rouses me today to cling to him. The Lord reminds me that wishes me to be mindful of him in all my ways…to keep him as the very object of every labor I undertake. In other words, the Lord wants me to labor for him and for nobody else. Today, I recognize the fact that the Lord has indeed enriched me “in every  way, with all discourse and all knowledge.” I recognize in my life what St. Paul said: “you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I am truly grateful for this. I pray that St. Paul’s words may be a prayer for myself: “He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Yes, even in spite of my sins and complacency the Lord has sustained me for the sheer reason that he is merciful and faithful. I stand here in spite of my sins. I stand here in spite of my complacency. I stand here for only one reason: “God is faithful, and by him (I was) called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Thank you Lord for calling me in spite of who I am. Thank you, Lord, for choosing me in spite of my sins. Thank you, Lord, for calling me to fellowship with your Son. Thank you Lord because even if sometimes I am not faithful, You remain faithful. “No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for him.”

Jesus, I trust in you! O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

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