June 25 – Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Oddly enough, one of the best parts of my two-week pilgrimage to France this month was returning to OLM and celebrating Sunday Mass with all of you. I felt more joy praying the Mass with the people whom I have come to know and love over the last three years than when I was visiting some of my favorite saints: St. Therese of Lisieux, St. John Vianney, and St. Bernadette of Lourdes to name a few. Maybe you find that hard to believe. Maybe that’s just the jet-lag speaking. True, saying Mass at the tombs of these heroes of our faith was a blessing I’ll never forget—I’d do it again in a heartbeat! But I think the Lord was telling me at 8am Mass last Sunday something along the lines of “there’s no place like home.” 

People imagine that the priesthood is somehow extra-ordinarily demanding—that we must be so brave and selfless to give up a wife and children and money for the collar…but we’re not. I’m just as much a sinner in need of God’s grace as anyone else—slow to relinquish my preferences, slow to give God my heart, slow to trust that He’ll give me more than I give Him. I became a priest because God called me to, and what I found was the pearl of great price—what I pray all of you discover as well. That “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt 16:25) 

The issue at hand is that we imagine that the opposite of the Gospel is true. We think, “Whoever preserves his life from the excessive demands of God will find it.” But to preserve oneself from God’s invitations, is to preserve oneself from love. Hence, “Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt 16:25)

It is certainly a big demand from God to me to have to leave here. I will always remember OLM, and yes, I will deeply miss it, because I will deeply miss you. I started tearing up months ago at the thought of leaving this place that has been my family and my joy! But I know that the Lord has good things in store for all of us.

 With St. Paul, I hope that I have at least somewhat succeeded in living out the words: “what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” (2 Cor 4:5) Many times I have fallen short of living this out, so I humbly ask that you forgive me where I have fallen short. But above all, I must say, thank you… for your love, your friendship, and for blessing me over the last three years. I have learned so much here from Fr. Don, from Fr. Michael, and from all of you. The priesthood has been an inestimable gift to me. This assignment has been an inestimable gift to me. Serving you has been an inestimable gift to me. Please pray for us priests as we seek to lose our lives for His sake, as we try to help you to do the same!

Father James