In various ways these past weeks, people have asked or commented on a variation of the same question. Sometimes it comes out as: “Why are you leaving?” or “Why does the Arch-bishop move priests around?” Or even “Did you have any say in the transfer?” St. Paul, no stranger to frequent ‘transfers’ himself, had a profound answer to those questions in today’s 2nd reading. He says simply: “I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me.”
If this move were just on the ‘human level’ – then it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. I am with people whom I love. And two ministries that I love. (And close to the golf course I love.) It is what I have known these past 16 years. Besides, after enduring 2 years of a messed up Natural Bridge, they finally got the street looking lovely… If this world were all that there is, then I would exercise my ‘right’ as a pastor to ‘not be moved without my permission.’
As people of faith, though, we know a bit better, don’t we? “HERE” is not everything. It is a good thing, no doubt, but at the end of the day, we are all just passing through. And like the pledge of celibacy that makes no sense without a referent to the divine plan and the Kingdom of Heaven, the choice to be obedient – the choice to listen to the call of the Holy Spirit when S/He invites me to follow – only makes sense if there is a God. That is the gamble that I have staked my life, as well as my death upon.
If you heard Gary Uthoff’s speech in the parish center, he quoted (impressively) Karl Rahner, one of the great minds and theologians of the last century. “In those moments when we are faced with the question of how we are to cope when things or people are taken from us we can protest, despair, become cynical and cling all the more desperately and absolutely to what has been taken from us. But it is better to abandon with resignation what has been taken from us and accept them as events of grace.”
I do trust this is an event of grace. And like St. Paul, I try to live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me. Because I have experienced how well Jesus has loved me, and how well you have loved me, I can go forward in great confidence. Thank you for that gift.
Let me leave you with one quote that my classmate put on the ‘memorial card’ for his ordination/first mass weekend.
“The will of God will not lead you where the power of God will not sustain you.” St. Augustine