An Empty Spot… For Jesus To
November 27, 2016
In advent we get ready for the coming of the Lord. And this advent, I am
getting ready to say good bye to you.
For some, I may have been a difficult priest to understand and get along with.
People sometimes change parishes when that happens. Other people cannot afford
it, and so they put up with us for as long as it is necessary. But all of them
keep coming to church: this parish or another parish, communion is the same.
They do that because they have never attended church because of the priest, but
because they wanted to receive communion, and to pray, and to listen to the
word of God. We priests sometimes do not realize how much faith people have
until we see those things. People do not come to church because they get along
with us, but because they love God, they want to get along with him. God wants
you to come to church, and so if you want to please him, you’d better come. The
priest should never be for you a reason to stop coming to church.
For these people, it may be a little bit of release that I will no longer
be here. We priests, sometimes because of our culture, our formation, our
personality, our accent, or other things, may become an obstacle for people to
get along with God. Because let’s face it, it is easier to listen to the word
of God from a priest who can read properly; and it is easier to take advantage
of a homily, when you get along with the person who gives the homily. But if I
have not been a good example for someone, when that person listens to my
homily, that person is not moved to do what I say, because they saw me doing
the opposite. Same thing may happen when our personality is annoying for some
reason. People find an obstacle to get along with God. And they need to make an
extra effort to persevere and do the will of God, despite the obstacles. With
that effort, you people show how great is your faith, and how important is God
for you. You will be rewarded for that.
2. For other people, it will be sad that I am no longer here. I am also sorry
to leave you, don’t get me wrong. But we have to take advantage of this
situation too. Now you will be able to show, once again, that your love of God
goes beyond the persons and the priests. In this advent, the empty spot that
Fr. Andrew leaves in your heart, makes more room for
Jesus. I have tried not to occupy that spot myself, because it does not belong
to me, but to him. How difficult it is for us priests not to confound the love
of people for us with the love they have for God. We may want people to do what
we say, (the “I am the chief” complex); but they have to do what God says
first. We want people to get along with us, but they have to get along with God
first. We want people to love us, but our job is to make people love God above
all things and people. We feed the sheep that belong to another Pastor, and we
have not the right to eat their flesh or sheer their wool. But of course, when
we try to do our job well, God and his people fill our hearts with a love that
words cannot describe. That is why it is so beautiful to be a priest.
Reflecting a little bit about these past years, I have tried to remember
one bad experience with people at St. Michael’s. It must be how much I love
you, but I could not remember anything. All you have given me are good moments.
I mean, this is the only thing I can see now, probably because love is blinding
me. I know it cannot be true, because we all are sinners, but that is how it
looks to me now. These past years were the most beautiful time in my life. I
will have all of you with me, at every Mass I say.
They say that Jesus occupies the empty spot that a son leaves at home when
he becomes a priest. My mother can say that it is true. She misses me, but she
has got as many more children as priests are around our village and in the
world. I hope Jesus occupies my spot in your heart. Jesus had thought that it
was good for you to have me for a few years here, either as a suffering or as a
joy, because he loved you. It was what you needed at that time. Now you do not
need me any more to love God more. Now you need me to depart, be it a suffering
or a joy, in order to grow in your faith and in your love.
3. “It will not be the same.” It is true. It will not be the same: it will be
what God wants. And what God wants is always the best. It will be so for you
and for me, if we try to do what God wants. Sufferings and joys have always a
purpose in the plan of God.
I am not asking you to stop loving me or to forget me. I would like to be
always in your heart and in your prayers. But let this remembrance move you to
love God more and give him thanks for what he gave you through me. If you have
received anything good through me, it was because God put me here. If you have
received anything evil, that is my fault. Priests change, but the love of God
for you does not change. There is nothing to be afraid of.
In short: when a priest moves, if he was not very good, your heart will have
one less obstacle for the coming of Jesus. Now it will be more peaceful
perhaps. If the priest was good, and you miss him, your suffering will purify
your heart, and your faith will make your heart a warmer room for Jesus. Let us
give thanks to God for what he has given us, and let us look forward to the
next. In the plan of God, it only gets better, if we accept it as it is and we
follow it with confidence. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God
and its righteousness, and everything else will be added on to you.” Let us
follow his plan, because there is no better plan than his. Thank you. –Fr. Andrew