2nd Sunday Year B - Homily 4

Homily 4 - 2015

During this past week, we had our annual priests’ retreat at Halls Gap in a local Conference Centre – a far cry from the Redemptorist Monastery in Ballarat in the old days! On the last evening, a couple pulled up in front of the unit next to mine, on a motorbike – a big, powerful Triumph. It was spotless, not a speck of dust, with shining chrome radiator and chrome exhausts.

It reminded me of a priest friend of mine who died just over seventeen years ago. Earlier, we had studied together for three years at St Pat’s College in Ballarat, and had both started at the seminary on the same day. A few years before he died, we had both been living in the presbytery at Ballarat North. On a casual visit some time later, he told me he had recently seen his doctor – who had diagnosed him with inoperable cancer, and gave him about twelve months to live.

One of the first things he did was to go out and buy himself a new motorbike – not as big as the one I saw at Halls Gap – but state-of-the-art nevertheless. Years before as a student, he had owned a bike. He just loved riding it and generally lairising around the place. After his diagnosis, every day the weather permitted, he got on the bike, and for an hour or two would ride the open roads and hills around Ballarat, enjoying himself like a young child. If he did not have long to live, at least he would live fully what he did have left. He came again to mind when I read today’s Gospel – with Jesus’ question, What do you want? What a great question! What do you want?

About fourteen years ago, just a few years after my friend had died, I had a bit of a health scare myself – nothing too serious, as things turned out, but enough to get me thinking, and keep me thinking. My death, after all, like my being born, will be one of the most important things that ever happen to me. I decided, like my friend, that, when I die, I do not want just to die, but I want to live my dying. I want to place my life deliberately and whole-heartedly into the hands of God. Luke’s Gospel has the struggling, suffocating, dying Jesus still irrepressibly crying out, Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.

St Paul once wrote to the people of Philippi: All I want is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. Christ’s resurrected life, of course, is human life at its most intense – life to the full. I find Jesus’ example, Paul’s desire and my friend’s response all compellingly contagious.

Of course, I have no idea when or how I will die; so the only way not to get caught off-guard is to do my best to make every moment of my life a case of Father, into your hands I commend my spirit. I want to love every moment. As far as I can, I want to enjoy every moment. I want to accept every moment of my life as a gift from God. I want to let go of the need to control what happens and how it happens, and just be grateful that it happens, whatever it is. I want to learn to see God present in every situation, whatever is going on, enabling me to grow.

As well as facing up to Jesus’ question, What do you want, I want to accept his invitation to Come and see. Like the two disciples, I want to Go and stay. To stay with him all the time – now – observing him, learning to recognise him, to be intrigued by him, and hoping constantly to be transformed by him. From where I stand, to come and see means to keep mediating faithfully, regularly. That is the best way I know to keep my life focussed, my desire fresh.