Repent and Believe: Metanoia not Fear – WLR Homilies
Six months ago, as ordination day approached, people kept asking me the same question over and over again in different words: Are you ready? Are you prepared? I must admit I was not sure how to answer such a question. I would usually respond with something like, I am as ready as I will be, and I believe completely that God has called me to this.
I think it was because magnitude of the gift I was about the receive in being ordained so far surpassed my worthiness, that I hesitated to answer. I knew and I know now in a far deeper way, that I am an unworthy participant in the one Priesthood of Christ in which I am privileged to share. No one is “completely prepared” for such a gift. Yes, seminary, readies a man for its reception, but the gift and the Cross with which it is associated remain a mystery to be lived. On the day of my ordination, I was ready, but I wasn’t completely prepared.
I am struck by how similar the situation is for the couples whose marriages’ I have been privileged to witness. All of them are “ready” but none of them are completely prepared. The mystery into which those who marry enter far surpasses any of our understandings. As many of you can attest, on the day of your marriage you may have thought you were equal to the promise you made, but chances are you soon recognized how unworthy you were. The same is true when people have kids; the same is true when people are baptized.
Why is it that we cannot be completely prepared for all these things?
Essentially, when we say we are prepared, we are saying that we are equal to the challenge which will come. But the thing is that we often do not know what the challenges will be before we face them. We do our best to consider them and predict them – that is prudent. But still we remain uncertain about exactly what challenges will come and we cannot know whether we of ourselves will be equal to all which comes before us.
But despite this fundamental uncertainty, we can continue to move forward.
Brothers and sisters, though we may not be able to be completely prepared, I do believe we can say yes. This is what Mary teaches us today in the Gospel. Mary was ready, but she, like us, does not seem to have felt completely prepared.
What gives us the capacity to say yes, as Mary did even if, perhaps like her we feel uncertain of how the task will be accomplished? What makes us ready? How can we be ready for the future we don’t know?
There are two ways for us to have the confidence we need to say yes something: first, to know ourselves and know we are equal to the coming challenge; second, to know that there is one whom we can trust who is capable of supplying that which we need to be equal to the challenge if we find ourselves lacking.
You see this second way clearly played out on a human level in the interactions between toddlers and parents. The 2-year-old needs to know that his mom or dad is watching (just-in-case) as he explores something new. He is uncertain of his capacity, but the security of knowing that his mom or dad is there if he was to get in over his head, makes it possible for him to surpass himself.
Our Blessed Mother teaches us in the story of the Annunciation that the second way, is the way which we ought to relate to God: as a child trusts that his parents are there for him and will provide what he needs, so also, we must recognize that God is always working for the good of those who love him – even when we do not know how. This is called faith and it is an essential aspect, perhaps the most fundamental aspect of our waiting as Christians.
We do not get to choose whether or even how long we wait, but we do get to choose how we wait. We wait because we are human; but how we wait determines whether we flourish or fail as human persons. How we wait matters as Christians because it determines whether we will be able to receive him with joy when he comes. So how do we Christians wait?
We always wait with our eyes fixed upon heaven. We wait with eyes fixed on heaven because we need a heavenly savior.
We wait together because together we are and will be saved.
We wait with joy because the Lord is near.
We also wait with faith like our blessed Mother and that makes us ready to say, “yes,” to loving as Christ loves.
We trust that God really does love you and me. And, because we trust that God loves us, we can move forward even in the waiting. Like a good parent, God provides the grounding necessary for us to embark, even as we wait for his return, on the adventure of life which is found in participating and demonstrating his love to others.
This love makes us free. The one who has mature faith is not pollyannish or naïve; rather, he recognizes that trusting God and loving like him, will mean becoming vulnerable to heartbreak, disappointment, and failure. But “he does not pass judgement on these things before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness, and disclose the purposes of the heart,” because it is only when the Lord comes that the loving plan of providence will be completely evident.
Like Paul says, we are stewards of a great mystery. A mystery of love. A love which does not disappoint, a love who can be trusted even in the dark moments.
We can live; we can take a risk, a chance, with the knowledge that His love is completely ours. For example, we can make a promise –in our baptism, on the day of marriage, on the day of ordination – that we could never hope to keep of our own accord.
But even in the more “ordinary” moments of life, by exercising our faith in God, we become more capable of loving others as he loves. Because God proves himself completely trustworthy albeit mysteriously, in short, you and I can choose to love with our whole self in every moment just as he does for us.
Brothers and Sisters, together moved by our faith we joyfully wait together with eyes fixed on heaven because we need a heavenly savior. Come quickly Lord Jesus!
 The mystery can and should be examined and analyzed but instead of completely explaining it this only shows how unfathomable its depths are. As St. John Vianney remarked at one point, “how great is the priest! … If he realized what he is, he would die…”
 On the day of ordination, a man places his hands in the hands of the Bishop and promises respect and obedience to him and his successors. Without the grace of God, I could never hope to keep that promise or any of the others I have made. On the day of your marriage, you unconditionally promised each other your entire self, in good times and in bad. You could never hope to keep that promise without grace.