Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. I am tremendously grateful to all of you, my family – the parishioners of Holy Infant. Thank you for welcoming me, for sharing your lives and your faith and your food with me, thank you for embracing me as an associate pastor in a parish that has had one after another great associates before me – and yet you have not ever made me feel like I was failing to live up to these great brothers of mine. Speaking of brothers, I am thankful to both our deacons – Deacon Dan Henke and Deacon Jim Powers for all of their support, assistance, and fellowship. Thank you to Deacon Jacob for his inspiring fraternity – and I especially have to say thank you to you, Father Stanger and you, Father Vordtriede. Father Stanger and Father Vordtriede, living with you and working and laughing with you is an experienced unparalleled in my life in terms of camaraderie and fraternity and I know in my gut that I will never see the likes of it again. Fr. Vordtriede I will miss you laughing so riotously that you have to leave the room. And Father Stanger I will miss your indefatigably high spirits and boundless desire to serve everyone in the parish starting with Tom and I. Between all of you, my parish family – I have learned so much. You have taught me more of how to be a priest and a father than I expected and shown me so many places to grow. Thank you. If there is anyone whom I have left out, or overlooked in any way for any gift or card or simple glance on the way out the door – thank you. And if there is anyone during any of my time here that I have rubbed the wrong way, of anyone that I said the wrong thing to or repeated myself to, repeated myself to, repeated myself to — in any way offended in the biggest or the seemingly pettiest way – I am sorry. If you are a part of this parish, you mean the world to me.
Let us pause a moment and consider the big picture between our God who loves us unconditionally and us. Fr. Eugene Boylan once wrote that that love either finds an equality between lover and beloved or makes equality. “For the proper friendship between two beings, some equality of nature is necessary.” Think about that. God has made us out of nothing and longs to raise us to Himself so that we, His children, can be His friends – so that He can share everything He has with us in His love.
Now there are distinctions in God – He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and while they are united, the Persons are not blended together. So when God formed Adam and Eve, He put them in the garden and began to teach them that they were loved, they were special among all creation – and yet the forbidden tree of knowledge of good and evil was a way in which He was distinct from them. They were not God – not able to simply blend into His identity. As long as they were obedient and did not try to make up good and evil on their own by claiming to have this knowledge apart from God they would grow ever closer to Him.
You could almost think of the fruit that they stole as having given them great spiritual indigestion. A little while ago there was this awesome indigestion commercial with this huge blob rolling through a park and over a picnic bench as all of this food and ketchup and mustard and whatnot gets stuck in it and it even tries to go down the slide with the kids. It was glorious. Well, in a way we’ve all been swallowed up but by our own wayward wills – led by our disordered desires.
But in the effort to heal us of our condition, strangely the Lord does not simply free us of our pain and suffering. He does not want to change who we are from the outside — or simply completely alter our human nature completely into something else. Into a world gone amuck, God first gave the Ten Commandments which can reveal to the Israelites and to us where we are failing. And then He sent His Son, Jesus who enters into our pain and suffering freely – not to eliminate it outright – but to join Himself to our suffering – to give our suffering and even death meaning – the meaning of the Cross that opens into life. He joins our lowly condition and shows that faithfulness and obedience to God does lead us to peace and happiness.
All of today’s Scriptures reflect unity with God’s will through obedience. Christ is the one whom Isaiah the prophet speaks of who is a servant from the womb. Because of his obedience, Christ will not remain a servant but will made a light to the nations to spread His salvation. In the Psalm we sing of the servant who refers to God as His delight for the law has been established in his heart. Paul describes himself as doing the will of God, himself and in the Gospel we have John the Baptist recount how Christ is the Lamb of God. In other words, all of the Old Testament – yearning for the promised Land and for a true king and for freedom from death – and there greatest sign – the Paschal Lamb – that is Jesus who will give Himself up for us, but His Body will be eaten. Jesus has come to be fruit of the Tree of Life.
Behold the Lamb of God. He has taken away the Sin of the world – that is every sin if we simply stop eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge by which we try to do our own will, Christ has taught us the way of charity. Christ has shown us that the elevation of our humanity into God comes from lowering ourselves to serving our brothers and sisters. You have taught me a great deal about service and obedience and joy even here at Mass. In the liturgy you recognize God’s Lordship over you and receive His Blessing through this unworthy man before you. Please continue to learn from God’s Word and continue to conform your will to the will of God, for this is love and eventually love is all that matters.