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Having What It Takes

As I prepare to move to another parish, I reflect on what God has called me to do at St. Luke’s and what God will be calling me to do at St. Mary’s of the Lake and St. Benedict’s. In turn, this leads me to think about my strengths and weaknesses. Do I have what it takes to fulfill what God asks of me? This reflection is nothing new for me. It is good for us to reflect on our strengths and weaknesses and what God is calling us to do.

I remember when I first felt a call to the priesthood. It caught me off guard as I had only been back to church for a little over a year. I didn’t feel like I knew enough about our faith to become a priest (seminary taught me a lot). I never liked public speaking. How could I be a priest and preach in front of a congregation? I never liked funeral homes. How could I be priest and not have to go to funeral homes?

God showed me that I did not have to be afraid of these things. God has given me what I need to preach. As to funeral homes, when I first felt called to the priesthood, I was about 30 years old and had only been in a funeral home four times in my life and each time was for a close relative. Once I started going to funeral homes for other people, I came to see funeral homes in a new light. God gave me the courage to go at first and now it is not a challenge.

Sometimes God reveals what He wants us to do over time. When I was thinking about becoming a priest I had my own idea of what being a priest would be like. It centered on celebrating the Sacraments and meeting with people one on one to offer spiritual support and guidance. (Of course, there would be some administration but I didn’t realize how much).

That was 1999. Now, 22 years later, I find the three things I most felt called to and enjoy is celebrating Mass, hearing confessions, and helping others grow in faith through this blog, my website, homilies and presentations. God has always given me what I need to do these things. I thank God for what He has given me. God will give you what you need to do what He asks of you.

We should also realize how what God calls us to do can change over the years. It can change when one’s children become adults and move out of the house and one finds oneself with more free time. Likewise, it can change at retirement. It can also change as we age and can’t do everything we used to. This doesn’t mean we can’t do something. It just means God will call us to what we are able to do.

We should also realize that when God calls us to do something, the call doesn’t mean we are supposed to it all ourselves. Moses had Aaron to assist him. David had Nathan the prophet. No one person has all the gifts. God will bring together people of different gifts to work together for the building up of his kingdom. Together, we are the Body of Christ. One body with many parts with “different forms of service but the same Lord” (see 1 Corinthians 12:4-31).

As I prepare to go to a new assignment, not only do I find myself wondering about my own strengths and weaknesses but also those of the parish, the staff, and the parishioners. How will God call us to work together? I don’t have all the gifts. I don’t need to have all the gifts. I don’t even have the same gifts as the priest who is leaving the parish. For example, he has the gift of music and can sing. That is not my calling. However, I trust God will provide others with the gift of music for what I cannot do.

Thinking about how God provides, I remember when I became pastor of Immaculate Conception in Ithaca there was a parish school. Like many Catholic schools, it was struggling with enrollment. In my first few months there I began thinking about doing some strategic planning for the school. As I did so, I prayed about who to have on the team. There was one woman I came to know as she served on the Parish Pastoral Council that I felt called to ask. I figured it was because she was on the council and a new parent. She was a stay-at-home mom. What I didn’t know was that before she started her vocation as a stay-at-home mom, she worked in a job where leading strategic planning was half of the job. God provided what we needed.

As God leads me to a new parish assignment, God is also calling forth the parishioners and staff to work together to build up his kingdom. As I go there as the parish leader, it is not my own kingdom that I am to build up. It is God’s kingdom. I go with an open mind to learn where the parish is at now. I emphasis “now” because it is my home parish. Its strengths and weaknesses may have changed over the years. God knows what the parish needs now.

It is not my will that I go to do. It is God’s Will I seek.

If I was going to do my own will, it might be just me on the “team” with everyone else likewise on their own team, doing their own will. Maybe we would be lucky and some of the parishioners and/or staff would want the same thing as me so we could work together. If I wanted to form my own team to do my own will, maybe God would help us. I would hope God would be on my team.

However, there is a better way to approach it. I do not want God to be on my team. I want to be on God’s team. I want to do God’s Will. I have my weaknesses and my strengths. I give it all to God is all-knowing as I pray thy will be done.

What strengths and weaknesses do you have? How is God calling you to use them?

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

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