Homily preached at the occasion of the Perpetual Missionary Oath ceremony at St Joseph Formation House, Nairobi on Friday September 24th.
Once again this year I am privileged to welcome ‘new blood’ into our Mill Hill Society on behalf of the GS and GC; 9 young energetic men taking their PO. It is an evening of commitment and engagement by our brothers with God and the Church thro our Society. We live in a career driven world that everyone seeks to climb the social political and material ladder. Very few search for the spiritual. Service in the church has also just become another social promotion. At final vows or Perpetual oath like today or ordination like tomorrow, there is happiness. People rejoice at the completion of a step in their calling towards priesthood. To some it’s a point of arrival; to others, the beginning of greater discernment, and each seeking fulfillment. Today we celebrate the Perpetual Oath of our brothers who commit themselves today for life in the service of God through the Mill Hill Society. You commit yourselves to the life of loving service. This is a choice, done by the individual, not forced. It is done out of freewill and in obedience to God who calls us. At baptism, whether as kids or adults we chose to follow God and be part of his one big Christian family. Even if we were led by our parents, we confirmed this as we grew up and made choices to follow him more closely in the missionary way. We chose the Mill hill way and today we rejoice that you are confirming this by committing yourselves to loving service for life. It is a big step and we thank God for how far you have come and your continuous search for a deeper relationship with God.
Whenever we make a choice, we try to go for a better or the best option. There’s a lot that we forgo in other to concentrate on the choice we make. We let go of others. When we chose the One God in whom we believe, we let go of other tiny gods and we follow and do only His will. We seek that will all our life. When we chose Mill Hill, we let go of others and we follow where the Society leads us in discovering the will of God in our lives. Sometimes we may faulter or doubt but we keep seeking and trusting that God will lead us. (Heb10;7 and Ps.39; here I am Lord I come to do your will.
In being missionaries, We are called first to be human; human enough to love; human enough to serve. Without that humanity, we might just be robots or self-service machines. We will be working just for us, for me. That’s when our calling becomes just a career and social step, everything we do will be for our benefit not the people we’re called to serve. Humanity brings us to love and to pray, it brings us to care and to share; sharing our life which is broken, like Christ’s for others. Humanity leads us to seek the good of others before ourselves. Humanity is our mission but with the heart of Christ. I dare ask you friends, Do you have humanity in you! Cos we may be human beings but sometimes not human at all.
Our call comes with a lot of humility. (phil.2:6-8). ‘Although he was in the form of God, Christ humbled himself in obedience to God, becoming human, humbled himself in obedience even unto death In accepting God’s will, we do it selflessly. That’s why at both Temporary and Perpetual Oath, we first promise Obedience! It is not by error.Obedience is humility. In obedience we become the little ones, allowing ourselves to be led by the Spirit of God. In obedience we become keen listeners like our patron St Joseph. We do not just dream but we pay attention and meditate on the message God gives us. “get up, take the child and his mother and go to Egypt”(Mt.2:13). Joseph did not question God and neither did he only remain at the level of just dreaming. He understood God was speaking and he listened. We do not start arguments and questions even before we have taken the first step. This is a challenge to our generation, to listen, to obey, to follow. We begin formation always as very holy and humble, innocent and respectful and prayerful fellows. But at the end of our formation and at ordination, we’re more educated and formed, yet more stubborn, a bit faithless, individualistic, prayerless and proud. That’s why our actions sometimes in ministry can make people even wonder whether we’re Christians, talkless of being priests. And as they say, ‘be careful how you live, you may be the only bible some people will ever read’.
It so happens that along the way when some of us feel we have arrived, we begin to question the same God who called us to follow him and the same tenets of faith we received when we accepted the call. We question the same Society we committed ourselves to. We question the same guidelines that have formed us and many in the past. What could have changed! So today what do you seek brothers? What do you ask God and his Church? If we reflect on these questions which you’ll respond to this eve, we’ll understand that we are not seeking something of our own. We are seeking Something gratuitous, asking Somebody to make us more of him and like him. We are seeking to be part of His salvific mission and not our vision. So therefore this celebration must stop being just a ceremony. Let it be a moment of greater discernment to what we seek from God through the Mill Hill Society. Tomorrow you’ll be ordained deacons and hopefully priests next year. Some of you are already preparing. Some plan how to negotiate or ‘argue’ with their Soc. Reps and Parish Priests on how and where their ordination will be. Others planning what vestments, the gifts or how much they will make from ordination ceremonies. Fair and good! But does it really matter where, how or when you’re ordained! What are you committing to and who will you be ordained for! What and whom are you looking for here? Yourself? The position or the life to serve after Christ who reminds us; “You did not choose me, I chose you and appointed you…” (Jn.15:16) and “apart from me you can do nothing…” Jn.15:5.
We must therefore understand that we are only sharers in his life and mission; Him being the source. For us to be effective disciples, we must love him. We must love humanity. We must listen in order to follow. In listening, we surrender to him and his Will alone in truthful simplistic obedience. In that way as Gaudium et Spes1 reminds us, ‘the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially the poor and afflicted, in anyway should be and will be the joys, hope, grief and anguish of the followers of Christ, us.
In conclusion therefore I challenge you brothers… Are you humble and obedient enough to take the Perpetual Oath! Are you humble enough too to be servant!
Do you have humanity enough (in you) to serve! Are you human enough to love?
May St. Joseph our principal patron who was obedient to God’s will, who listened and worked quietly without alarm, lead us to total obedience and simplicity in our life of service.