Be strong and stand firm (The reading is Joshua 1 verses 1-9)
In this chapter of Joshua we see the young man facing a tremendous task. Moses has died on the mountain. The people have arrived at the boarder of the Holy land , of the river Jordan. Joshua must take the place of the great Prophet Moses. He must bring these people into a land where there are many enemies and wall cities. God addresses him. And many times God tells him, “Be strong and stand firm”.
The reason for being strong is that God will be with him, God will be there.
Perhaps, this is a very important message for us to take away from our retreat, God is with us.
The source of our confidence and strength must be our faith in God. We must start our life and live it out of prayer and faith. Near Jerusalem, at Emmaus there is a small mountain called Mons Gaudia, the mountain of joy. For 2000 years people have wanted to go to the holy land to visit the places associated with the life working and teaching of Jesus. For most of this time people had to travel there by foot or by horse. And so it often took a number of years before people arrive in Jerusalem. Having traveled a long time through many dangers on bad roads with little guidance and with robbers and dangers everywhere people climbing up from the sea to the mountains and then they came to Emmaus. They arrive there later in the afternoon and climbed this mountain of joy. It called mountain of joy because standing on this little mountain they can see below them about 8 km away the old city of Jerusalem. They could see the spires of the churches, the walls of the city, the buildings, the temple the mountain of ….from here. They knew that they will rest tonight here on the mountain of joy and tomorrow morning for sure they would finally arrive at the city of … Jerusalem, the place where Jesus died.
Is called the mountain of joy and I say they slept with great peace that night because they had seen with their own eyes Jerusalem. They had not yet arrived but they had seen the city, they knew it was there, they knew the direction, they knew it was near, they knew that they will be there by tomorrow.
Like those pilgrims we priests have to keep our eyes on the Heavenly Jerusalem. We have to pray continually, to make life within us our hope, our trust, and our knowledge that God is with us. Then we can be strong and stand firm. Then we can be strong and make the people too stand firm.
When we are people of faith we find Jesus not only in the reading of scripture but we find him in the experience of life. Jesus condemned people who spent their time seeking marvelous signs from the heavens in him. And Jesus invited them to see what he was doing and what he was saying now. That would be sufficient for them. We too if we approach life with faith, if we look at the life of the Christian community if we listen to our own prayers and hear God speaking in our hearts we too will find God among the pots and pans.
We will find him in the work we do, in the prayers we sing, in the people we meet , in the charity we share and in the liturgy we celebrate. We will always remember that the great sign of the presence of God in his spirit is mercy and charity and joy. Many priests say my work is my prayer. But this may be true. It will be true if I pray then my work will be my prayer. But if I do not pray my work will course by prayer to disappear and my faith.
People loved their priests. We bishops often find that very difficult to move priests from one parish to the other. People get very annoyed when their priest whom they loved is moved. People love you as priest, you must have confidence in their love, we must respect their love , and we must be true to their love. We must try and make special, those special moments in their lives, baptism, marriages, funerals, anniversaries and celebrations. We lift into importance the significance of ordinary simple lives.
People expect a lot too from their priests. One time a young man was killed in an accident. His mother allowed the doctors to take his strong heart to use it for transplant. This heart taken from the young man who died was given to a priest. This priests had been dying from a weak heart. Now the heart of this young man he recovered his health and began work and live a normal life. One time a …a mother of this young man came to the priest with a strange request. She asked to put her ear to the priest’s chest to hear the heart bit. She said, “I want to hear the living heart of my son.
Let us hope that the people find biting in our hearts the living heart of Jesus. They will do that if we are the people of prayer. If we are people in union with Jesus. Remember it is the amount that is more blessed to give than to receive. There is an old story of the apostle setting out with Jesus on a long days journey. It was very hard. Jesus told the disciples to please carry a stone with them. They picked up the nice rocks but Peter picked up two small tiny tebbles. He remembered the long journey they had to make. That evening they arrive in a lonely place hungry and tired. Jesus said, ‘take out your stones’. When they did he turned the stones into bread. Peter had a very small meal that night. It is the measure that we give will be the measure that we receive. That was end then with courage with optimism.
Two climbers in a mountain in Switzerland guide and will never found again on mountains. The parish put up a plague in the church and said, “last sin going towards the top”. Let this be …last sin going towards the top.
There was a bugger one time who came continually to a priest annoying him and asking for help. Sometime later a bugger died. The police found him and found the priests address in the pocket of the bugger. They approach the priest as next of kin. The priest said this man got me when he was alive and now he got me even when he is dead.