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home : bishop : columns

4/27/2017 8:30:00 AM
BISHOP'S COLUMN
For our priest jubilarians: 'Ad multos annos!' To many more years!
BY BISHOP EDWARD B. SCHARFENBERGER


A jubilee is a milestone, a time to pause and to take time, looking back and looking forward.

We tend to quantify meaning by where we have traveled and where we are headed, and we often measure that by numerical assets, such as years, places and experiences that we can count up and evaluate.

A jubilee, too, is typically modified by an ordinal, defining its unique position in a series, like 40th, 50th and beyond.

Our priest jubilarians, whom we acclaim and celebrate at this time, are more than facts and figures in a statistical manual. Though we might humor them -- or they, modestly, may even mock themselves -- for having achieved "monument" or "landmark" status, we want them to know that we appreciate the opportunity to tell them we love them and to thank them for the sacrifice of their lives to us, God's people.

Rev. John Tracey Ellis, the renowned historian, reached a point in his life at which many, commenting aside, would say that he could "remember" history. In the late 1970s, during my student days at Catholic University, I recall an occasion on which he was being honored.

As he took his place at the podium, he invited us to sit down and stop clapping, apparently feeling a bit embarrassed that he was receiving the adulation just because he was old. As he put it, "I have reached an age at which one receives trophies simply for having lived long enough."

Although we all laughed, one could sense a real note of wistfulness in his self-deprecation: "Yes, thank you for appreciating me, but oh! All the opportunities I missed and hope I yet have."

People whom we love and honor for their productive, self-giving lives are often all too conscious of their failings, inadequacies and yet-unfulfilled dreams.

It is good to give thanks to God and to our jubilarians for the gift of their lives in our midst. They have touched so many in ways known only to God and those to whom they brought the touch of God's merciful grace.

Whether that was through a sacramental healing, a word of consolation, an inspiring sermon or simply a moment of silent presence -- many such encounters over the years -- there is no doubt in the minds and hearts of those who were with them at these times that, like that heart-warming presence at Emmaus, the Lord was with them.

Let any doubt be dispelled in the minds of our jubilarians that God is with you and loves us through you! Be assured that the authenticity of your priestly vocation, to which you so generously responded in the time before some of us were even born, has been affirmed time and again over the years.

Even more, may any regrets born of human frailty -- yours or ours -- be greeted with the gentle smile of our Master, who is beckoning you, and us, to the kingdom through your leadership and example.

Our life of faith has sometimes been described as a pilgrimage to heaven. Along that path, we make stops at way-stations to catch our breath, reflect on our progress and refresh ourselves for the journey that lies ahead.

Sometimes, those stations may feel like one of the Stations of the Cross! Sometimes, they are full of good cheer, as we hope these jubilee celebrations will be. Yet, there is no doubt that, like the good wine that only improves with age, the best has been saved till now, yet to be tasted.

Our Diocese is uniquely blessed by the life and ministry of our jubilarians, many of whom serve in their retirement with an energy and a zeal that reminds us that joy and a youthful spirit are not the sole possession of those who can text and twitter time away.

These men bear witness to us that the value of time is best measured not by how fast things get done, but by how much love is poured into each precious moment, each small task God gives us here on Earth.

Knowing this, we pray that our jubilarians will rejoice with us in thanking God for their lives: the blessings they have brought, and those yet to come.

Ad multos annos! To many more years!

(Follow the Bishop at www.facebook.com/AlbanyBishopEd and on Twitter @AlbBishopEd.)





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