Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 30, 2017 – Year A
Readings: 1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12 / Ps 119 / Rom 8:28-30 / Mt 13:44-52
by Rev. Mike Boehling, Guest Celebrant
Six years ago, John Christian was the very last person to apply to the seminary that year. I remember that he was anxious, and as I met with him time and again as the Vocations Director, there was anxiety about taking the next step.
Of course he said, “I feel like the Lord is calling me to be a priest, and I think that this is the right path for me.” But there was anxiety in his heart, and I noticed that not only was there anxiety, but he was a bit cautious the whole time. He said, “I’m not sure that this is the right time, Father.” He kept saying this, “Is this the right time for me to go off to the seminary?” I kept assuring him, “The Lord will reveal to you in His time that this is the right time for you. But just trust the providence of God.”
So I’m to share with you the story of how John discovered very quickly that the timing was right for him. John left his home in Lynchburg, Virginia and he traveled up to St Mary’s in Baltimore where he began his formation. When he got there he found that they assign you to a pastoral assignment. John was assigned to The Gift of Hope, which is Saint Mother Theresa’s guest house for homeless men who have AIDS and who are dying. In John’s first few weeks, he was assigned to work with the Sisters there in The Gift of Hope in downtown Baltimore, working with homeless people. He was told that he would need to do three things: He would cook a little bit, converse a little bit, and clean a little bit. Well, if you know John, cooking and cleaning will never be his strong points, so he got really into the conversing part right away.
He started talking to a guy named Barry. He told me later that Barry was just a pain. We all know people like this in our lives. Barry was disagreeable, and angry, and quite honestly, he had a right to be angry, because everything in his life had been taken from him. He found himself as an elderly man, sick, dying, and living on the street until the Sisters welcomed him in. John would sit down once a week and talk to Barry; they would have nice conversations, but John said he never talked to Barry about religion, because Barry had said, “I don’t want you preaching to me.” John slowly learned about Barry’s life and where he grew up, his ups and downs, and how he ended up on the streets.
One of the last days of the semester, John went to visit Barry, and Barry said, “I would like to know about Jesus.” John said, “Let me tell you about the Lord.” And so John just spoke to him honestly about the Lord Jesus, about the man who is the Son of God, His life, His mission, His ministry, His passion, and how this old man named Barry shared the exact same pain and suffering as Jesus did. He spoke about His death on the cross and about the resurrection to new life.
The next week John came in and Barry said, “I would like to meet the pastor of the nearby parish.” So John went and got the pastor and brought him in. A few weeks later, after Christmas and the New Year, Barry said to him, “I would like for you to be my Baptism sponsor. I met with the pastor, and he knows my health and my condition and he knows my desire to know the Lord more fully. They have agreed to baptize me and to confirm me and to welcome me to the table of the Lord for the first time.” This old man, who was sick and dying, was to become Catholic. So John was his Confirmation sponsor, and John was also the Altar Server at the Mass where he came to the Church. There were only five people present that day: a couple of his sisters, the priest, Barry, and John. Right before Easter time, when Barry’s health was pretty bad, he entered into new life in the Church.
I often wonder about God’s timing. I remember this young man saying to me, “Is the time right for me to go to the Seminary?” I said, “The Lord will show you if the time is right.” So John processed into the Church with Barry that day when he came into new life in Christ. Then just before John left that first year, before his first summer assignment, John was able to walk into the church one more time with Barry, but this time he was a pallbearer and the lector. Barry had passed away peacefully in the night, fully in God’s grace, fully reconciled to the Lord, a child of God, destined for eternity in Heaven.
Is the time right? On June 4th of this year, John Christian was ordained a priest of Jesus Christ at the cathedral. Along with his brothers, he has begun a priestly life of ministry. When he went to St. Mary’s, he was just beginning to understand if the time was right for this. But over time the Lord slowly, very slowly, confirmed that feeling he had in his heart. There were ups and down, there were questions that had to be answered, and there was a lot that happened in the following six years. But really what happened was that it was a time of grace. All things work out for the good for those who love God and seek to do His loving will. That’s what we hear in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. All things work out in God’s time for those who love God and are willing to do His will.
Now to be honest with you, just a handful of young men might be called to serve the Lord as priests. But each of us is called to serve the Lord in a very unique and very special way. The Lord is placing something on your heart even this day, even this summer. He is saying, “There’s a new ministry here in the parish and I want you to be involved in it.” He is saying, “I want you to help others by bringing Communion to the sick and homebound.” He is saying, “It is time for a new generation to come forward and to lector, and to help Fr. Sal, possibly as the Permanent Diaconate.” You may know it in your heart, but you say, “But my life is so busy. How can I go forward with something like that?” Maybe it is just to pray before the Blessed Sacrament once a day for thirty minutes, or pray the rosary at home, or to go to a nursing home and to pray with those who can’t get out at this time in their lives.
I share this with you because you ask yourself, “Is the time right?” Well, I will share one last anecdote with you and that is that God can’t move, can’t steer, a parked car. It’s so true – if your car is parked, the good Lord can’t lead you to where He wants you to be. So you’ve got to start the car, and you’ve got to put it in drive, and you’ve got to begin to move forward. Say yes in little ways to the Lord, and as you move forward, then He can gently guide you to where He has always wanted and desired and needed you to be for others. Deep in your hearts there is a seed of what the Lord wants for you. My prayer for you is that you will be willing to just step forward a little bit, and take those extra steps to discover the time is right, because it’s God’s time for you.