My constant refrain – what ought to be the constant refrain of every preacher – is that we are called to give our entire lives to Jesus, to make him the center and foundation of our lives, and to make him and the Catholic faith the standard by which we evaluate all of our decisions about money, time, and action. But as much as I preach this and believe this, I still find myself surprised – authentically surprised! – every time I see it lived out.
What do I mean? When someone takes the leap of faith, gives Jesus the proverbial wheel, and becomes a true disciple of the Lord, we should expect to see changes in their lives, especially in the way they use their time and money (the most limited and fixed resources someone has). With time specifically, we should not be surprised that such a person uses more of their time in prayer, in liturgy, in study of the faith, but also in living the faith out through different meetings, ministries, activities, apostolates, etc. And I am privileged to see the truth of this every day living and working at our parish. Every day, I see people maintaining our buildings and grounds, serving our liturgies, helping in our office, teaching different classes, hosting different groups. The fact of volunteerism has become the water I swim in – it is ever-present and inescapable where I live and work.
And yet, I am constantly surprised by it. I know why I am here every day: I gave my life to the Lord in the priesthood, and this is now the totality of my life. But why would a person with a spouse, a family, a home, hobbies, a long-term network of friends, disposable income, built-up vacation, etc. – why would such a person choose to spend time here, at church, giving of themselves and their talents and their efforts? What could possess a person to give so much back to their parish and their church community? As dedicated as I am and the rest of the staff are to our jobs, do we really deserve all of the efforts people put in to help us?
The answer is obviously Jesus and what I said above – Jesus changes lives, and that change has a concrete expression. But even though I spend every day preaching the Gospel of Jesus, I am still surprised that it actually takes root in peoples’ lives. Rather than surprised, I suppose the better word is “delighted”. It is always a fresh experience and a fresh joy to know that people love the Lord enough to give their precious time away, week-in and week-out.
Thank you to all of our volunteers, who have responded so powerfully to the presence of Jesus in their lives! It would be impossible for this parish to carry out its mission of evangelization without you!