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Now, that I am retired from my ministry here, I am wondering whether these long years of my ministry were beneficial to any one.There is nothing tangible out there for me to see whether my life was effective.
For more than 40 years I have ministered as a priest.Was it a waste of time or life?Was I faithful to my vocation? What does that faithfulness mean?
People often speak of priests as alter Christus. How often did I live like alter Christus?I have not found much meaning in these expressions.They are good for developing a theology of priesthood.But how many priests in their personal lives are Christ-like to those who live with them or interact with them?
We are all weak , fragile human beings, carrying with us our own little prejudices, ambitions, arrogance or selfishness. Very rarely do we find among ourselves people who can exemplify in their lives the qualities of a Christ-centered life.
We are all wounded healers, to use a famous phrase of Henri Nouwen. When we do the works of healing, we are quite aware that we too need healings in our lives. We are wounded healers and hence it is presumptuous to expect perfection in our lives.
I have often held in my heart the belief that what characterizes us as priests is our love and compassion.Without these qualities, it would be impossible for us to reflect Christ.Our administrative skills, our eloquence or our personal accomplishments are just a mask and do not mean much unless we have love and sensitivity in our lives.
Many a time, I think, we are hollow men, to use a phrase of T.S.Eliot.The shadow falls between us and the reality.We are not reflecting Christ.
Looking at my life , I often see these shadows.I often wonder whether my life was worthwhile.Have I done anything good? Outwardly, I may have worked for Christ through my works in different fields. But many are the times when those good actions of mine have been submerged in the dungeons of selfishness.
Where is the kernel of my spiritual life? Have I done something good in my life?It is so difficult to evaluate my priestly life. I see only warts and spots in my life.
It is in these moments of deep inner troubles that I am comforted by the words of Thomas Merton and Fulton J.Sheen.
Merton says in one of his prayers: " I am seen by you under the sky, and my offenses have been forgotten by you--but I have not forgotten them. Only one thing I ask; that the memory of them should not make me afraid to receive into my heart the gift of love--which you have placed in me....remembering that I have been a sinner, I will love you in spite of what I have been, knowing that my love is precious because it is yours,rather than my own."(Thoughts in Solitude)
Bishop Sheen has the following to say about his life which is applicable to the lives of all priests: "I now am not afraid to appear before Him.And this is not because I am worthy, nor because I have loved Him with deep intensity but because He has loved me.That is why we are lovable. When the Lord puts His love into us,then we become lovable."(Treasure in Clay).
At this fag end of my life, I have to prepare myself well for my final journey.
God is giving me time to show those qualities of love and compassion more thoroughly.There is no need of thinking about what could have been done.Whatever that was done was done.It is our intention that matters.
Another thing that I have to bear in mind is that I am what I am.Our Lord does not want us to be what we are not.With all our warts and defects, we are called to reflect him.
As our Holy Father, Pope the Benedict XVI has expressed beautifully well in his book,"God and the World", we do not have to be afraid of God because He is our Father.He knows who we are , our sins and weaknesses.
That means we don't have to feel dejected or frustrated.We can be happy and joyful.As Therese of Lisieux says, in her autobiography, even the small flowers are created by God and they have their own beauty just like roses and lilies.
"I understand how all the flowers He has created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not take away the perfume of the little violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy."
I do feel often that my responsibilities are over and that I don't have to accomplish much in my life.Even physically, there is not much I can do. My walking has become slower and my physical energy is waning.Even though, I don't feel it, I can see it coming.So, I have to prepare myself for the coming days of slowness and a less prominent public life.
What Malcolm Muggeridge has spoken about the evening of his life is true of any one reaching that stage in one's life: "So like a prisoner awaiting his release,like a school boy when the end of the term is near, like a migrant bird ready to fly south... I long to be gone."


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