January/2024 Keeping God’s appointments By Fr. Stephen Durkee, Director of Priestly Vocations Father Acrea was…
A couple of years ago, I was greeting people after Mass as I normally do. A young man and his mom approached and asked if I would bless their dog. The young man recently had some unfortunate circumstances happen in his life that left him hardly able to walk and in need of a guide dog. I prayed with them and blessed the young man and his dog.
During the Christmas season, I met this young man and his mother again. The context was similar: after Mass, albeit at a different parish. This time, there was no dog and no wheelchair. The mother reached out her hand and said, “Father, you probably don’t remember us, but we wanted to say hi.” She proceeded to tell me the miracle that her son experienced. Despite doctors cautioning that her son may never walk again, today he is able to walk.
I did remember them, and I remembered praying with them and blessing the dog. Hearing of the young man’s miraculous recovery was one of those moments when I was in awe of the mystery and presence in the fire of God’s love. God does amazing things all the time, and when they happen, we need to let ourselves be awed by them.
Two moments in Scripture can remind us of the awe and mystery of God.
After a night of unsuccessful attempts to catch fish, Jesus meets Simon Peter and commands him to throw his nets one more time. “They caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, ‘Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.’” (Lk 5:6-8)
“[Moses] came to the mountain of God, Horeb … When he looked, although the bush was on fire, it was not being consumed. So Moses decided, ‘I must turn aside to look at this remarkable sight. Why does the bush not burn up?’ God called out to him from the bush: ‘Moses! Moses!’ He answered, ‘Here I am.’ God said: ‘Do not come near! Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. I am the God of your father, he continued, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” (Ex 3:1-6)
Peter was in awe, not just of Jesus’ ability to help him catch fish, but of the incredible power that he manifested. Peter knew he was in the presence of God. Moses, too, was awed by the mysterious experience of being in the presence of God. I, too, was moved by the powerful experience of this young man who no longer needed a guide dog to walk. God is great and is present to each of us in ways that simply leave us in awe.
Friends, this marks the end of our meditation on the fire and the Holy Spirit. We talked about the
1) sacrificial fire, offering our best to God;
2) purifying fire, letting our hearts be purified to make God number one;
3) on fire with the Holy Spirit, to speak boldly and with courage about Jesus Christ; and now
4) the fire of awe and mystery, allowing ourselves to have a deep reverence for the mysterious and beautiful workings of God in our lives.
I pray that we may all be on fire for our love for the Lord. We pray especially for our seminarians and future priests, that they have hearts inflamed with the fire of God’s love.