When I read St. Paul’s message to Timothy in our first reading last night, I resonated with the spirit of his message. St. Paul reminds Timothy of his calling and of the authority that was given him when St. Paul laid hands on him. The life that Timothy was called to lead as a consequence of that anointing was one that would be challenging, but blessed. He would have to bear his share of hardship for the Gospel, but St. Paul tells him never to be ashamed of it. Whatever is to befall them, St. Paul’s confidence is in the Lord: “For I know him in whom I have believed,” he says, “and I am confident that he is able to guard what has been entrusted to me until that day.”
That got me thinking about my own ordination as a priest, which was two years ago yesterday. I clearly remember the words that Bishop Imesch spoke when he handed me the chalice and paten that I use for Mass to this day. He said, “Receive the oblation of the holy people, to be offered to God. Understand what you do, imitate what you celebrate, and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s cross.” I think those very words would be words that St. Paul would understand. “Understand what you do” seems easy enough, until it gets to the second instruction: “imitate what you celebrate.” What I celebrate here is a sacrificial moment, and if I am to imitate that, then my life must be basically sacrificial. That’s what is meant by the third instruction in what the bishop said to me: “and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s cross.”
Sometimes it’s hard for all of us to know that whatever our call may be, it will involve sacrifices. Every single vocation necessarily requires that, because nothing authentic can ever be just about us. We have to lay down our lives in love every single day because that’s what Jesus did for us. Some days, as I tell the couples getting married here when I preach the homily for them, that may be hard work. But it is always our hope that every day, whether it’s easy or difficult, it will be the greatest joy of our lives. That’s why St. Paul tells Timothy that he should not be ashamed of his testimony to the Lord. That’s why the bishop told me to conform my life to the mystery of the Lord’s cross. Because none of us will ever regret anything we’ve sacrificed for love.