I mentioned at the beginning of our pilgrimage the importance of knowing the difference between “tourism” and “pilgrimage”. We should consider another spiritual dimension: A pilgrimage should involve discernment, or an intention.
Jesus’ last evening at Gethsemane was a discernment. He was completely free. He knew he had a choice. He knew what his choices were. He knew what was coming.
The word Gethsemane is derived from the word for oil press. Gethsemane was not only an olive grove, but also a place where the oil was pressed out of the olives.
Jesus was in agony. The word “agony” is derived from Greek, and roughly translated, can mean a battle with oneself. Look what happened: Jesus engaged in the battle, the agony. His disciples did what I usually do. I too often allow myself to get distracted or become overwhelmed by either “busy-ness” or with drowsiness. Jesus told them, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Yeah. I know about that.
He knew, and we know that, moments later, they would all flee from him. That same night, Peter would deny him three times, as Jesus predicted only a short time before. at the Last Supper. Only one of them would remain at the foot of the Cross. Their reaction was to avoid conflict and risk. We see that a lot in the Church, avoidance. If they had iPhones, they would have been looking at their screens. Jesus’ discernment was to confront his decision, head on. He already knew the answer, but the decision was not easy.
My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.
A true discernment is a confrontation with ourselves. It can be a battle. It can be an agony. Often it is easier just to run, or ignore or deflect.
Before I came on this pilgrimage/retreat, I knew that my pilgrimage discernment would involve my priesthood, and the decisions that are in front of me because of my age and the gradual emergence of age-related infirmities.
In the Diocese of Austin, our Bishop Vasquez respects that if we want to serve longer than the official retirement policy of 70 years, then he will be grateful, but, otherwise, he will respect the retirement age.
I could retire anytime. I was already retired when I became a widower. But, I have learned something about the priesthood. I cannot believe how similar the priesthood is to marriage. Marriage is not a job. Marriage is a way of life. Marriage is a choice to live your life in love, and to allow it to change you.
Actually, the reason I entered the seminary, was because, I chose to find a way to continue to live my life in love. I did not want or enjoy the “single life”.
Marriage will teach you how to love. You think you know before marriage. However, marriage will teach you how to love, or you will seek to escape it every chance you get. We see it all the time. Marriage is a daily choice to love the other, for the good of the other; to choose the other over your own desires and well being. Marriage is the contest between selfishness and married love. Every morning when you wake up, you have to make that decision: Self? Or other? Parenting takes it to a new level. Sometimes it is a joyful decision. Sometimes it is an agony. But, it is always a decision to love. Love is not an emotion. Love is a decision.
As priests we choose to love the Church, to love your parish family. To love your Bishop and your brother priests.
Priesthood is almost exactly the same as marriage. Everyday you must make the decision to love, as soon as you open your eyes. It is a contest between selfishness and love of the other. To love God, to love the other. It is not always an easy decision. Love is not an emotion. It is a decision.
Most of you are just learning how to be men. That is part of the process. The same thing happens in marriage. Our love decisions will press the oil out of us. Jesus’ love decision was all the more difficult because he knew that we would often reject the choice to choose him, to put him first; to avoid pain and conflict and suffering. Yet he took on our failings, our infirmities. He made his choice right here, in front of this altar. He chose us.
Thanks be to God.