Friday, December 26, 2014

For You I Am Bishop

When I was 15, I had my first official tennis match as a member of the Varsity team. I looked fabulous, of course, in my uniform with matching colored striped socks, and wrist and bandana head band. But, I was scared to death of actually having to play. I even threw up before the match, but my coach would not let me sit out the match. I played! I ran, I hit, I served. I LOST. But, I played and was ready to play and do better next time.

"I am fearful of what I am for you, but I draw strength from what I am with you. For you I am a bishop, and with you I am a Christian. The former designates an office received, the latter the foundation of salvation."

These are the words of St. Augustine of Hippo on the occasions of his anniversary of ordination as bishop. He did not want to become a bishop and fought for a long time against the moves that were made to make it so. He had great fears about that office of ministry. He finally accepted out of obedience and a sense of love for the people to whom he was asked to serve. Love was always the bottom line for Augustine. Loving God whom you can not see, by loving those whom you can. He played and played well as history recounts.

Tomorrow I am to be ordained to the office of bishop for my Order of Augustinians of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and the Church community we have formed. This comes at a time when I was seeking to find ways to slimline my ministry, focus more on my religious life, and engage in less administration and more personal one-on-one/small group ministry. As my long time friend, and co-founder of the Order, Bp. Christopher always says, "If you want to make God laugh, then tell him your plans." Well, God must be getting quite a belly laugh at me right now. I for my part feel like I did before that first tennis match. But my brothers and sisters in community, like my first coach, won't let me sit out this match.

And growth and new life always comes with pain and a cost. The growth of our Order necessitates us leaving the church in which we found ourselves and some good people there. But, in the season of Advent and hope, you go where the Lord leads and trust in his providence to get you to where he want you to be. Now it is Christmas, and we must become the Word made flesh to others. This in fact is the motto I have chosen to govern my term of office. We must be pregnant and ready to birth the Word of God, the Good News of salvation, in what we do and say wherever God leads. God is found in our incarnate existence, the day to day life in which he formed us, It is in making that existence holy that he grants us a share in his divinity and life.

So, I and our Order/Church go forth now trusting in God's Holy Spirit in our midst, impregnating us with the Word, as he did Our Immaculate Mother of Grace, whose example is always in the forefront of our minds and prayers, to give birth to the Good News to those who have no hope, to be a voice of justice to the voiceless, a center of prayerful calm to the disturbed, a source of resource to those whose means are few. We go now inflamed with the love of God, one in mind and heart into His life made flesh here among us, and in the life promised us to come. It's time to play the match, we need not win, just play with our whole heart, mind and soul, for love of God.

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