When Pope St. John Paul II was asked why he became a priest he responded, “I must begin by saying that it is impossible to explain entirely. For it remains a mystery, even to myself. How does one explain the ways of God!” These words, of course, ring true to my own priestly vocation. I am sometimes confounded when I realize the beautiful vocation I have been called too. This reflection continues to come back to me as I begin at Our Lady of Mercy as your next pastor. Even though every person’s vocation is a mystery, I always find a glimpse of understanding within my own vocation through our Sunday readings.
In our Gospel, we see Jesus appointing 72 others to go out saying, “At the time the Lord appointed seventy-two others whom he sent…” Luke 10:1. Jesus calls and he sends! In my own vocation, the Lord never stopped calling me to Him. However, as easy as it is to ignore a call on a cell phone, so was my initial response to the Lord. In spite of myself, the Lord continued to draw me to himself and I simply responded to his call in college. This led me to missionary work after college. Initially, there was a fear in being sent and the unknown, but with that leap of faith, I discovered a great peace and joy walking with the Lord. Which leads me to one last point referenced in our second reading from St. Paul, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal 6:14).
The Lord brought clarity to my vocation in the way of the Cross. When I was in college I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, which I continue to live with through the help of doctors and medicine. When I was in my mid 20s I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a type of cancer, and did 12 rounds of chemo therapy treatment. I am grateful to be in remission for 16 years now. These moments, crosses and trials, allowed me to walk and trust the Lord all the more! And as hard as it is to believe, I found great peace in these trials. If it weren’t for these crosses, I don’t believe I would have discovered the great joy of being a priest for the Lord and for you!
It still amazes me in the way the Lord has worked in my life and in my priesthood. And in the words of Pope St. JPII, “it remains a (beautiful) mystery.” My hope for the parish and for myself is that we find joy and peace in the Lord’s calling and sending, even in the midst of the cross.