Thank you all for welcoming here to New Mexico. As I said, my name is John,
and I've just driven across the country from New York City to be here with
you. I'm 43 years old, was born in North Carolina, raised in Washington,
D.C., attended Duke University, entered the Jesuits twenty years ago and was
ordained nine years ago in 1993.
The Jesuits, as you know, are an old, medieval religious order, one of the
largest in the church, founded in the early 1500s by St. Ignatius Loyola.
The Society of Jesus runs schools and universities around the world, and
tries to promote the Gospel of justice and peace, to help people find God
wherever they are, especially as they work for justice and peace.
For the last six years, I have lived in New York City, where I worked at a
large interfaith organization that promotes reconciliation around the world.
After September 11th, I worked full-time for the Red Cross, counseling
thousands of grieving relatives and rescue workers, as well as coordinating
the chaplains' program at the New York Family Assistance Center.
I've always loved New Mexico, and as I was discussing my next assignment
with the Jesuits and the needs of the church here, I volunteered to come to
New Mexico. The Archdiocese asked me to come here to the Northeast, and I'm
delighted to be with you.
My first reaction is: It's a little different from the Upper West Side of
Manhattan! So you'll have to teach me how to be your pastor, and help me to
get to know you all.
Father Brescher told me wonderful things about you, how deep your faith is,
how kind and loving your are, how committed you are to your church, and how
compassionate you are, and I feel blessed to be with you and ask for your
support and prayers. He did say, however, that there was one problematic
parishioner-the bear! A bear has started to eat off the apple tree behind
the house where I live, every night for the last two weeks. Then last Sunday,
he appeared at the back door of St. Joseph's church-during Mass.
Now in New York City, we have a lot of problems, but we don't have bears, so
you'll have to help me with them.
Twenty years ago, a wise Jesuit said to me that the key to our lives as
Christians is to get our story to fit into the story of Jesus. Like all of
you, I just want to love and serve Christ, to follow Jesus, to carry on his
work of peace and love, and today's Gospel is one of the most important,
pivotal moments in the life of Jesus, a real turning point.
Jesus suddenly announces to his friends that he is going to Jerusalem to
turn over the tables of injustice in the Temple, and for this he will be
arrested, jailed, tried, tortured and executed, a victim of the death
penalty. And Peter speaks up and says, "God forbid, Lord! We don't want you
to get in trouble and get killed!"
But Jesus says, "You are not thinking like God! Whoever wants to be my
disciple must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. Whoever loses
their life for my sake, will find it. What profit is there if you gain the
whole world and lose your soul? Instead, take up your cross and follow me!"
I don't know about you, but there is a large part of me that is like Peter,
that says, "Wait a minute, Lord. You're great and we love you, but we don't
want to you to make a scene and get killed. We don't want you to take up the
cross, and we don't want to take up the cross either. Life is hard enough!"
Peter thought the Jewish messiah was going to be a political/military leader
who would overthrow the Roman empire and restore Israel to Jerusalem.
But Jesus is not like that at all. He is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah who
gives his life for the whole human race, in perfect nonviolent, selfless
love. The cross is a scandal to Peter and to all of us.
But for Jesus, the cross is the way to God. The cross is the way to life and
peace and resurrection. The cross is the center of the spiritual life, the
path of love, the way to relate to Christ.
Following Jesus means denying ourselves, taking up the cross, loving
everyone, showing mercy and compassion to everyone, resisting injustice and
war, not hurting anyone, helping others, forgiving everyone and remaining
faithful to our loving God no matter what. In other words, trying to lay
down our lives in loving service of others, in the struggle for justice and
peace, as Jesus did.
I hear you have all been doing these things. As we come to this Eucharist
and celebrate the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, and receive his
body and blood together, and pray for the grace to follow him and carry the
cross of love and peace with him, we can give thanks knowing that we are
walking in the footsteps of Jesus, that we are all greatly blessed.
Close this window.