A special thank you this week to our friends Divine Mercy Crusade, Chicago in the congregation.

Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

I’d like to remember at this liturgy this morning, and really dedicate my homily to Father Donald Ahearn who was my first pastor, who was called home to God at the age of 91, several weeks ago. He was a beloved pastor at St. Julianna Parish and a great mentor and teacher.

The best story that I remember, and the greatest gift that I ever received in my life, came from Father Don Ahearn. The day after I was ordained a priest, I came back to the rectory at St. Julianna’s. There was a girl on the phone in the office talking to a woman who wanted to talk to a priest. As I walked in she said Father, there’s a woman, her dog is sick, she wants to talk to a priest. I thought, oh my goodness I’m a priest.

So I picked up the phone and I thought, what am I going to say, and Father Ahearn came in. I said, Don, there’s a woman on the phone, her dog’s sick, she wants to talk to a priest. He said, I’ll take care of it. So he takes the phone, first thing he says to the woman, bring the dog to the phone, says a few words, talks to the woman, hangs up. I said, that was magnificent. He said, well let me tell you. He said, what I did, I think helped the woman, she was happy. I certainly didn’t hurt the dog. And I don’t think God cares.

And then he took me for a cup of coffee before I said my first mass to the grade school kids, and he said, Scott, this is what I believe about priesthood, but it’s really about how to live life. Treat everyone with dignity and respect, say yes whenever possible, keep a sense of humor, and remember it’s not about you, it’s about God’s work. Treat everyone with dignity and respect, say yes whenever possible, keep a sense of humor, and remember it’s not about you, it’s about God’s work. Best gift I ever received. Best life lesson.

The Gospel today says that we must deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow in the way of Jesus. Denying ourselves means surrendering our ego, doing for others, trusting that in surrendering our own needs and our own egos, in following in the way of Jesus, that life is best lived.

On this very day this afternoon, I’ll be in Wisconsin marrying dear friends of mine. A marriage on a Sunday in a Catholic Church, wonderful. This young couple, I’ve watched them over the years, and they give me a wonderful example of what it means to deny self. Out of their love for one another and the life they want to create, they have denied themselves a great deal over the last couple of years, out of love, to prepare well for their life together, working hard, taking on extra hours, doing so much out of love, so that they can have a wonderful wedding ceremony, but truthfully, a wonderful marriage.

Denying self, taking our own ego out of the way and living for the other, it’s beautiful. Isn’t that what the Lord did for all of us, by giving us his life and his love? And he teaches us to do the same.