St. Michael's Parish - Cobourg

An Empty Spot… For Jesus To Fill -Homily, November 27, 2016

An Empty Spot… For Jesus To Fill                           -Homily, 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.

 

1. 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