A number of you commented rather negatively on the photo I put of myself in last week’s bulletin. They said it was “too serious”. They want to see me smile. I must say I really like the fact that my parishioners want to see their Pastor happy. It augurs well for my time here at St Paul’s. St John Bosco, whose feast we celebrated during this week, used to say, “The devil is afraid of happy people”.
In today’s first reading we hear some very beautiful words God told the prophet Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.” Has it ever occurred to you that you meet someone for the first time, and that person shows that he or she already knows many things about you? It is a sign that that person is interested in you, that you are not just a name or a number. You matter, and this creates a beautiful feeling inside. It’s good to know that God knows me – dare I say even more than I know myself. He knows how I think, what makes me sad or happy, what my gifts and my defects are. And this is how He loves me. He does not expect me to change before He starts loving me. In fact, this is the person He chose for Himself, or “consecrated”, to use the term the prophet used.
Yes, in a way we are all consecrated, we are all chosen, as Christians set apart to live a life lived for God. In my case, He chose me as a Religious, a missionary, a priest. In the case of many of you, He chose you to be parents, or grandparents. Sometimes people tell me “I don’t believe I’m doing a good job being a parent”, or doing whatever it is that God could be asking of them. In these cases, my answer is always the same: if God has entrusted you with a particular mission, it means that He believes you can do it, but not on your own!
In today’s second reading we see St Paul burst in that beautiful explosion that is his ode to Love. If I could do anything and had no Love, I would be as good as useless! Some time after St Paul, St John would tell us that God is Love. Thus, when St Paul tells me that I have to do everything with Love, he is practically telling me that I have to do everything with God. Without Love, or without God, I am nothing.
This is what Jesus did in his life. Everything with Love because, as he himself told us, “the Father and I are one”. Not everybody was willing to accept this. Some found Jesus’ teaching and his way of living too challenging or uncomfortable. It would go against their selfishness, their interests, or their ego. That is why, like in today’s gospel, they often tried to get rid of him. In today’s case, it was not yet the right time, and he simply escaped from them. Later, as we know, they did manage to get rid of him. Or so they thought, because Love is stronger than everything, even than death itself, and he came out of it victorious.
This is the great message that Jesus gives us. We are sure to encounter problems in life. Sometimes things seem to be getting very difficult. But united with him, we’re assured that we can do it. This was precisely Jeremiah’s experience, as he tells us in today’s reading. Because, as St Paul reminds us, “Love never fails”.
This is, indeed, cause for joy.