Being a priest for twenty-one years and having the opportunity to be in different parishes in different parts of the world has helped me to learn a lot from the life experience shared by people. Very often we hear people saying that most teenagers consider that the Sacrament of Confirmation is a graduation from the church. Very often we take for granted that it is a sacrament of initiation, an inauguration of a more committed spiritual life. We have probably heard this one before.
A Presbyterian pastor, a Lutheran minister, and a Catholic priest serving in the same small town gathered together to share the joys and challenges of leading their churches. The conversation turned to a problem the Presbyterian was experiencing: “We have these pigeons in our steeple. They make a huge mess. They are noisy and loud and we can’t get rid of them.” The Lutheran acknowledged a similar problem. The Catholic priest chimed in: “We had the same trouble too, but we solved it.” The other pastors asked how he did that. The priest responded, “We confirmed them. Never saw them again.”
I remember what happened to a young girl. After the Sacrament of Confirmation there was nothing more of church in her life. Almost five years had gone by because of a very bad experience she had in her life. Now she felt deep down in her heart the need of attending the Mass and getting involved in the church and being a witness to others. With hesitation and anxiety she decided to go to the youth meeting where she used to go many years ago. As she was crossing the gate she was thinking: “What are they going to say to me? Will they think what am I doing here? Will there be someone who knows me?” As she stepped into the big room, she found two people in the group were trying to move a big table. Seeing her they told her, “Don’t stand there like a statue, come and join with us and help us.” She was bit hesitant but being dragged by their contagious cheerfulness and smile she joined them. All of a sudden, she heard a familiar friendly voice, “Maria, how are you? We missed you a lot all these years?” She turned around and it was her pastor standing there with his usual beautiful smile. She said: “As I was leaving that gate I felt sorry for being away but there was an overwhelming joy I felt because my Lord never left me.”
Our loving God does not want anyone of us wandering on the road of our life. He is calling us ceaselessly into the vineyard of this world. There is a world to be saved and he needs us. He does not ask us anything, he does not need our curriculum. He does not bother about the number of hours we work but he is concerned about how we work, the love, affability and the honesty we put in to it. God knows that each one of us can do something for his kingdom so he wants everyone. His goodness goes beyond justice. Mere justice alone is not enough to make us children of God, but Love that goes beyond justice. If we want to live with the love of God in our life, it is not the money we should put in the center, but it is our brothers and sisters; not productivity but the person.
Prayer: You have called me Lord and I am happy to work in your vineyard. It was enough for you to just look into my eyes and you trusted me. You have neither asked me for any reference from anyone nor asked me what titles do I have. You have entrusted to me all that is so dear to you, nature and everything that you created. If you are my reward then I don’t need anything else in my life. You want me next to you and you trust me and that makes me happy and my life meaningful. Thank you because you continue to call my brothers and sisters to work in your vineyard and it is always a blessing to work together. Give me the happiness of being with you forever.