I should have been a priest!

Readings: 2 Sam. 12.7-13; Ps. 32; Gal. 2.16-21; Lk. 7.36-8.3

Last week, a hundred miles from here, I visited a church to celebrate a priest-friendís 50th anniversary. As I, dressed in my black clerical suit, was walking up to the church, four people in front of me were approaching a side door of that church. These four included a husband and wife about my age, a young man who appeared to be their son, and an elderly woman in a wheel chair. Between the sidewalk and the door of the church stood three raised steps. The woman my age volunteered to open the door, the elderly woman got out of the wheelchair and walked up the few steps, and the two men proceeded to lift the empty chair by the ends of the arm-handles. The woman holding the door advised the men, "No, no, no. Lift the chair from the middle." The two men re-positioned themselves from the end of the arm-handles to the middle of the arm-handles. The woman holding open the door shouted, "No, no, no. Lift the chair from the middle." I being a helpful sort, confidently walked to the front of the chair, and lifted it from the foot pads. The woman screamed, "No, no, no." We three men just stared at her. I volunteered to switch places with her. I held open the door, and she went down the steps, lifted the chair from the middle of the seating pad, which allowed the chair to fold in half. Then she scowled at us, and huffed up the steps, carrying the wheelchair herself. I continued to hold open the door as the two women passed, the young man, and as the man my age passed by me, he said out of the side of his mouth, "I should have been a priest!"

Fathers in the congregation, that man thought it was greener on my side of the fence than his. Heís wrong! Priests also, like husbands and fathers, have good days and bad days! Fathers, you have been blessed with a marvelous vocation. You have been called to be a co-creator with God. God, the author of life, has called you with your wife, to bring forth life. You have children, or you may have chosen to adopt children. Your God-given vocation is to try your best, and no one is perfect, to provide for the physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual needs of your children. The popes repeatedly say, "Let your home be the first school of love." Bring your children to church at an early age, so that they learn then how to conduct themselves in church with proper reverence for God and respect for other people. When they cry too much, while Iím trying to preach, just take them to the cry-room! Let them feel at home with God, lead them to feel loved by God. The best religious instruction you can give your children is your own good example: the respect and affection with which you treat your wife and children, your fidelity to civil and church law, your generosity in helping at home and outside the home, especially for those in greatest need. In this parish, think how St. Joseph provided excellent example for his foster-child Jesus. Thank you for being fathers, for raising your children well, for raising them to know, love, and to serve God in this life and to be happy with him in eternal life.

Fathers, may I share one piece of advice. This is the same advice I shared on Mothers Day last month. I have noticed too many times that parents can focus so much on caring for their beloved children, that mom and dad donít give sufficient time and attention to their relationship. Dads, moms, please take care of yourselves at the same time that you two take care of your children. Parents, your first moral responsibility is to your spouse. In a hierarchy of priorities, your spouse ranks higher than your children, unless some imminent danger threatens the health and safety of your helpless children. There needs to be a time in the day when mom and dad talk honestly, openly, in adult fashion. Fathers, send your children to bed at an appropriate hour. Turn off the TV. Turn towards your wife, and let her turn towards you. Your beautiful children are the fruit of your mutual love. Your mutual love will sustain you and your children in difficult times. Children need loving parents. Fathers, one of the best gifts you can give to your children is to be a loving husband to your wife. Fathers, by the grace of God, radiate to your wife and to your children the Spirit of God.

The gospel today speaks about love and forgiveness. At one moment, Jesus says in effect, "being loved enables us to be forgiving." Ö Two sentences later, Jesus reverses the word order, and says in effect, "being forgiven enables us to love." Ö I donít know which comes first; itís like the conundrum of "the chicken or the egg?" In any case, the experiences of loving and being loved, Ö of forgiving and being forgiven, Ö transform us from a limited vision and affection to a much broader if not global vision and affection. Remember the poem of John Dunne: "No man is an island. No man stands alone. Each manís joy is joy to me. Each manís grief in my own." All of us in the congregation, fathers and non-fathers, letís try our best to live by Jesusí command and example of loving and forgiving.

Read other homilies by Father O'Malley