Luke 14: 1-6 Life is Christ
It was late in the evening of December 23rd, 2003 when we were all gathered together for our final talk. We were 44 deacons, about to be ordained Roman Catholic priests of Christ. With all my heart, I truly believe it is the greatest honor any human being could be given! No greater love than this, to lay down your life for ones friends.
After ten long years in formation and having surpassed so many difficulties, trials and doubts, I was finally getting ordained. We were all excited. Our families had just arrived for the event. Even a group of students from the school I was leading had just arrived from Michigan. What a blessing and what an honor. Our original group had shrunk from 150 men to 45. Sometime during our eight days of silent spiritual exercises, one deacon had dropped out. Tomorrow, on Christmas Eve, our total gift to Christ would be complete.
Emotions were running high. All of us had not seen our parents in years. Others, had parents that were elderly and fragile. Some were missing loved ones. Still others were severely ill - in terminal states - battling for their lives. But they had all made it to Rome. Tomorrow we would see them for the first time since their arrival. Only one meditation remained and then we would be off to bed. We were all thrilled to be together. We could not wait to see our families. We were very enthusiastic, proud and vane!
Then the retreat master spoke. I will never forget his words. “I am sure you are all excited for tomorrow. You will be ordained priests. The celebrations will begin. The joy will be immense. The congratulations, the invitations, the respect and admiration will be nonstop. Your families will be very proud of you. But I do not want you to forget. Always remember. Tomorrow morning, bright and early, you will be crucified with Christ.”
We were silent.
The smiles disappeared, our giddiness had vanished. We were like marble statutes, constructed in our minds and of ourselves, and they had been toppled. He had brought us back to reality; to ground zero. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” He had destroyed our Twin Tower! He had sunk our Titanic – the ship that “not even God could sink!”
He went on and on. I don’t even remember the rest of what he said. But I do remember his final statement. “If you are not ready for this, if you have any doubts, if you will not be faithful to your vocation till the end of your life, then don’t do it. There is still time left to turn back. Don’t worry, we will come up with some excuse for your family. They will understand.” That was the evening that one deacon, one brother, had decided not to get ordained. So close.
The words of St. Paul ring true to all those who follow the Lord: unconditionally, unfailingly and unromantically. Life is Christ, and death is gain. (Phil 1:21)
Today, let us pray for an increase in vocations - holy vocations - men and women of God, committed to serving the Lord in Truth, Love and Humility.