“It’s a huge joy for me to see all of your faces and to be able to celebrate this Mass for you after twelve years of formation and a lot of adventures on the way, so thank you for being here and bringing it to fulfillment in a certain way and also kicking off the adventure in another way.
The normal colors would be green, but I am wearing white because this was the chasuble that I wore at my first Mass in Rome, so I’m trying to bring a little piece of Rome to Kansas here and the other little bonus I’m bringing from Rome is I asked the Vatican for a special plenary indulgence so everybody here if you receive communion, confession, pray for the Pope and reject sin in your life, then you can either have your time in Purgatory or someone who has passed away, a loved one there, it’s like a get out of jail free pass, so you’ve got one of those. Don’t waste it. Think of somebody and offer it up. It’s a special bonus just to be here.
So the big question I’ve been pondering these days and preparing for these words is looking at the parable of the Samaritan. It’s a great buzz word, ‘Oh a Samaritan, be a Good Samaritan!’ But I think the real core question in the whole story and that weaves through my life as well is ‘Am I lovable? Can I be loved?’ The flip side as well is ‘Am I able to let myself be loved?’ Because we can create more obstacles for anybody even God to love us and so that’s a reality that if we don’t get into that, that lovability, then everything else is kind of circumstance like, ‘oh why am I suffering this, or why did it happen to me?’ So, the story of the Good Samaritan begins with this man, right? This person going down toward the sin of Jericho. Jericho was not a virtuous place and so he was looking and in one sense he must have given up on happiness where he was and he was looking for a quick fix and a cheap imitation of the deep vastness of the desires that our hearts can only be satisfied in infinite love, so he’s looking for those little gimmicks going down to Jericho and on the way these robbers, they beat him up and they prevent him from getting all the way to Jericho and it’s interesting, I call it the rock bottom principal like when we hit the rock bottom we realize that we can’t dig any deeper that we have to look up we have to see, hey there must be something bigger, bigger than all of this and so it took this guy who was totally beat up, left for dead, no clothes, no anything and it was in that moment that he was vulnerable enough to be helped by an enemy, right? The Samaritans were not good buddies with the Jewish people and so we can tie that in a way to God that God can seem like an enemy and maybe it’s our own past or different circumstances, maybe it’s something we’ve suffered, maybe a loved one whose passed away, some abuse, some suffering, something that we can’t forgive others or to forgive ourselves, so there’s a lot of things that can be those robbers along the way. Many things can destroy that relationship, so that’s what we’re called to, to have that moment and that opportunity to look toward someone to help us. So it’s when this guy is down and out that he’s able to accept love and another interesting thing about this Samaritan is that he doesn’t just pick him up, carry him along, fix him up himself, he entrusts him to another. He uses an instrument in others so that he doesn’t impose. I heard this great phrase from Pope Benedict. He said that, ‘God doesn’t impose, He always proposes.’ So he doesn’t want to get in our face and rub it in you know, ‘Hey what were you doing going down to Jericho? What were you up to?’ He doesn’t impose himself on us and so the question in our own lives is, ‘Who are those people, those instruments that have helped to pick us up and to be that face of God for us when things are tough? So, that’s a challenge: to let ourselves be loved, to not accept the lie that we’re not worth it, that we’re not lovable, or that God gave up on us or forgot about us, so that’s when we have to get rid of those little securities, the things that try to ‘okay maybe I’m not lovable, but I’m going to at least have these little tiny hopes’ and that’s not what we’re made for. When I look back and I look at each of you, helping me to be who I am today I think about all of those little messengers, those instruments of God’s love to be able to help see his face and also to know who I am and help me to be who I am.
So in this moment during that Mass we can pray about, maybe identify more with the robber? Maybe I’ve been hurting others or maybe I could be one of those passers by walking along, rubbernecking at the suffering of others? Maybe I could be one of those or maybe I’m that guy there that is just beat up and kinda lost, looking for a cheap fix, an imitation happiness or maybe I’m being challenged to go out and to reach out to someone who wouldn’t on face value be lovable or be someone that I’m attracted to help out with all of that bad blood of the past? Which character might I be in that story? It’s pretty powerful to be able to get into those moments.
So really, that feels like the mission that I’ve been given now as a priest, I keep thinking of it like a giant hot potato that if I hold onto it I’ll get burned because it’s too much for myself so I gotta try to pass it around and share as much as possible and also to be creative because certain people pass it in certain ways, so the priesthood feels like a giant gift in that way that’s not for myself, it’s for others and that’s what I hope to share in this mission that I’ve received, this huge opportunity to be able to keep sharing these graces and so I ask for your prayers that I can be faithful unto death and as well that we all pray for each other that we can either accept God’s love, realize we’re lovable and also be willing to be that instrument to be able to show his face to all those who are walking wounded who are suffering in our lives that we pass on our way to eternity.”