Pope Benedict XVI declared the past twelve months the Year for Priests. It has been a unique and wonderful opportunity for us to recognize and to honor priests in the Church worldwide and in this Diocese, who transform our lives by bringing Christ to us, especially in the holy sacraments. We are truly blessed here at Our Lady of Peace. Both our pastor, Father Kavanagh, and Monsignor McFarland are wonderful examples of humility, obedience, faith and service to God and the Church. This past Friday, Father Kavanagh celebrated his 27th Anniversary of his Ordination to the priesthood and back on May 28, Monsignor McFarland celebrated his 55th Anniversary. Please join me in applauding their yes to God’s call to the priesthood. [Applause.]
The conclusion of the Year for Priest, combined with today’s readings, has me thinking more about my work. My ‘day job’ for the past 10 years has been is as an attorney for a foundation that raises money for legal services for the poor. Our long-time and founding executive director, the person who hired me, retired earlier this year and we are now in the search for a new executive director. This transition has challenged me to consider what I do, how I do it, and why – something of a professional ‘gut-check.’ I suspect that there are others here going through a similar transition in their life – professionally, maybe in their marriage or a personal relationship, maybe for our recent graduates trying to decide what to do next.
Over the next couple of weeks, I will be spending some time in prayer and in talking with others as I discern what God is calling me to do in my professional life – that is, how I am to provide for my family while also using my God-given talents and skills to help others. I will certainly place my trust in God and pray for the grace of wisdom and courage to follow God’s will, not my own.
I have to believe that each of the individuals we read about in today’s readings went through a similar process in their faith life. The woman from today’s Gospel who floods Jesus with her love, Simon the Pharisee whose home Jesus visits, the Apostle Paul, and King David.
We don’t know for certain what caused the woman in today’s Gospel to show such great love and attention to Jesus – the bathing of his feet with her tears, the wiping them dry with her hair, the kissing and anointing of his feet. It is likely that the experience of forgiveness by God for her many sins causes her to respond as she does. Being reconciled with God, she shows Jesus, the Son of God, such great love. She is bursting with joy, which can only come with being freed and transformed by God’s love.
Simon, the host of the dinner party, on the other hand, when face-to-face with an all-loving and all-merciful God appears unable to move beyond his own pride and self-righteousness to experience the joy offered him.
Like the woman in today’s Gospel it is the Apostle Paul, who with great zeal proclaims the Good News in today’s second reading. We are familiar with his dramatic conversion experience – the bolt of lighting, the fall from the horse, his loss of sight and recovery. Paul’s deep faith and passion required him to reconcile with his sorted past, too. And it is through his transformation that he is able to proclaim with authority that our justification – our freedom from sin and reconciliation with God – comes by faith, not by anything we can say or do independent of God’s free gift of love and mercy.
And then there is King David, whose baggage is as great as any ones – lust and adultery, murder and greed – better than reality TV! But here is the wonderful thing: in the face of God’s great love and mercy, David acknowledges his sin and is forgiven! David was not abandoned by God, but instead he is transformed by God’s love and finds new life.
We too can find new life in God’s great love and mercy. Admittedly, it is often difficult to find God’s love and mercy in the chaos and crisis of our daily lives; but God is there, in love with us and waiting for us, waiting to provide us with opportunities for us to know his love and mercy, to be restored in relationship with him, and to experience the joy and peace we were made to experience.
Like the disciples we read about at the end of today’s Gospel, we are called to follow Jesus’ example of humility, obedience, faith and service to God, to proclaim the good news to others, and give freely of their resources. We can do this by having faith in an all-loving and all-merciful God who forgives our sins and offers us peace, just as he did for the sinful woman in today’s Gospel.
Be at peace my friends, for we have a great and loving God!