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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Some Pre-Ordination Thoughts

An excerpt from a reflection I wrote prior to my ordination:

Knowing how different my experience of being a Jesuit has been than what I at first thought it might be, I’m not sure that I can fully appreciate now what I am in for as I become a priest. But, at least at this point, being a priest for me has to do with “real presence.” The analogy to our belief about Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist we receive when we gather to worship is deliberate, as certainly one of the things I most look forward to as a priest is the privilege of helping others to encounter Christ in the Sacraments. In my preparations in the past months for these ministries, I know I have only begun to get a glimpse of the graces which God might offer to others through me in this way. I also speak of “real presence,” however, in terms of how I already understand myself as a priest. In my years of formation, though I have sometimes regretted that I could not offer others the consolation of the sacraments, I have come to realize that beyond words and actions, often the greatest gift I have to offer to people is to be there for them sometimes to pray, sometimes to talk, sometimes to hold their hands or simply just to sit in silence. I have also learned that though there are many gifted in other ways whom I would like to be like, that God makes best use of me when I’m not trying to be “super-Jesuit” or “super-priest,” but rather when I offer others the gifts God has given me, and myself, warts and all. Though I strive to be holy, I find that much more often people thank me for being real.

There are still ways in which I find myself at times running away from being all that God want me to be. I’m not always as patient, generous or Christ-like as I strive to be. Fear, or lack of confidence, while less likely now to cause me to run away, can still hinder my progress in God. Yet, still so often, like on that day at the hospital when I surprised myself with my ability to mourn with three families in one night, I look back in awe at how God’s grace was able to accomplish something through me that I alone could not have done. It’s with trust that God will continue to do so that I confidently offer myself for service as a priest. My ordination card captures the Gospel scene which reflects a similar trust. Peter, despite all his faults, is able, at Jesus’ invitation, to walk on water! He doesn’t let a sea get in the way of his running toward Jesus. And even when his confidence wanes and he begins to sink, he knows that Jesus will hear his cry for help and pull him from the water so that he might live to do even more extraordinary things another day.

God has shown a similar faithfulness to me in the best and worst times these past years, especially in the gifts of family, friends, colleagues and brother Jesuits with whom I’ve shared those times. On the morning of June 14, 2008, when the call goes out for those to be ordained, I will be mindful of that faithfulness and thankful for all these gifts when I declare myself “present.”