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Whisperers of God

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

May 31, 2017

Bishop  LaValley’s homily for the Jubilarian Mass at the Priest Convocation  May 16

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”  In his letter to the Galatians, Paul lists nine signs of the Holy Spirit.  Peace is one of them and, you know that when experienced, God’s peace greatly reduces the distress and fear that is part of human existence.

God whispers peace to us in a variety of ways: through the sacraments, especially reconciliation; through the exercise of virtue, the doing of good; through our parish family, as people reveal God to us through deeds of love and kindness.

In an Easter reflection, Bishop Morneau wrote that the visitations of our loving God, divine whispers, are daily affairs and will be noticed and responded to if our faith is deep. Such whispers are sources of Christ’s peace for us.

Mountains and oceans, simply by their massiveness, whisper something of the divine to us.  So, too, sunsets that paint the western sky in purples and pinks, filling our evenings with beauty.

Then there is the granite in those hills, solid and seemingly eternal, hinting of permanence in an ever-changing world. 

When we take in the beauty, we are visited by God’s handiwork.

Yet, I would suggest that today our souls and those of our parishioners, hunger for two simple gifts: understanding and a smile. 

Whenever we find an empathetic heart, whenever we feel the compassion of a fellow-sufferer, our loneliness is lessened and we hear in these experiences God’s love for us. 

And a smile is so powerful that it can, as Albert Schweitzer maintains, “stay a suicide.” A smile of affirmation endorses our dignity, giving us a sense of worth. 

Vocations in the Church today are greatly enhanced when an understanding heart and joy in one’s priesthood is evident in our demeanor, conversation and in our preaching. 

Mountains and sunsets and granite lack the capacity for compassion and affirmation.  They know no sympathy, they are incapable of smiling. 

But people, people whisper God to us because they can enter into our experience and rejoice in our victories and cry with us in our sorrows.  And we do the same for them.  People have the potential for smiling and transmitting the love that God has given to them. 

Especially throughout this Easter season we are challenged to hear people whisper God to us; we are challenged to whisper God to others.  Yes, the visitations of our loving and kind God are daily affairs.  We must be aware of them in our own lives. 

As priests, we become whisperers of God for others. Being a person of faith has never been easy.  Just a cursory study of the Scriptures makes that clear.  Today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles is just one of many examples.  Here, they stoned Paul, dragged him out of the city, leaving him for dead.  When the disciples gathered around him, he got up and moved on into the city.

I wonder, did they whisper God to him?  Was that all he needed to be lifted from the doorstep of death to the next encounter of discipleship?  It sure seemed like he was down and out, left for dead.   Somebody whispered God to him and new life for him was found.

Brothers, it’s true that the beauty of God’s creation, whether it’s the grandeur of these Adirondacks, the sunrise on Lake Champlain or sunsets on the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario, they all shout out “God is awesome!”  Yet, it is the whispers of the divine that you and I transmit that touch the human person in ways that nothing in creation, nothing else is able.

We whisper, verbally and non-verbally, the divine to others.

To whom will you intentionally whisper God today and be an instrument of His peace?  Be specific.  With much understanding and a gentle smile will you whisper God to a brother priest struggling with loneliness, anger or exhaustion? 

With an understanding, gentle, accepting smile, will you whisper God to your neighboring pastor and find in him not a competitor, but be a source of compassion and font of encouragement for him who might be struggling in his ministry?

Will you whisper God with an understanding smile to the parishioner who just gets under your skin and tries your patience every time you see him or her?

Will you even whisper God to your bishop with an understanding, gentle smile every time you get frustrated with his making more work for you, especially as you try to sort through your parish’s Living Stones Pastoral Plan?

There is no doubt that the joys of the priesthood are tremendous.  I’m confident that, after decades of faithful ministry, our Jubilarians would attest to that.  But the sacrifice and challenges are real, too.  You all know that.  In it all, through it all, we are to whisper God, instruments of His peace.  

These, our Jubilarians still have their voices after these many years of priestly service.  That means they’ve been doing a lot of whispering. 

Congratulations to you, my brothers.  With much gratitude, I pray God’s peace be with you always.

Priest Jubilarians 2017

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