In the nearly two weeks since I've been here at the seminary, I have been so amazingly humbled and amazed by the sincere outpouring of support and encouragement I've received - literally from all corners of the world - and all corners of my diocese. The mail room said, when I went down to get my box assignment, they were glad I was finally here... they wanted to meet this guy who had packages arriving for him before he arrived himself.
I assured them it was not of my merit. And, while I know that sounds cliche, and merely polite, it is genuine and authentic for me. Many of you who have done and said things to encourage me, and support this journey for me, are not of the same religious tradition as I. Some of you may share the practice of Roman Catholicism. And I say this hoping it doesn't offend any: Your generousity, love, concern, encouragement and support make Christ present to me in these days. In many ways. I find comfort and consolation for the difficulties in your thoughts, prayers, words and actions. I find nourishment for my journey - spiritual, physical, and emotional. I find acceptance of who I am, and loving hope for who I can become. I find friends. I find love. These things make Christ present in my life.
I'm so very grateful for this experience at the start of my journey. It makes me keenly aware that, for me, community - community that includes peoples across space, and I believe across time - cannot be separated from our pursuit of God, God's will for our lives, and the grace required to seek out and carry out that will. I don't know that I believe God requires community in order to manifest Himself to us - but I do believe, and have experienced, that community is often where and how we find Him in the most real ways.
I used to say, almost as idiom, "I'm humbled" by something. I suppose I was conditioned to say that from great orators, and readings, and modeling behavior of people I admire and wished to imulate. I don't think until today, when praying and reflecting on this part of my experience, I don't think I ever really understood it before now. Today, I truly am humbled. I'm humbled because what has been so freely offered to me by others, some strangers, some gifts completely unexpected...I'm humbled because I know there was nothing I could do to merit the gift. And I know there is neither anything I can do to "repay" the kindness... nor was any repayment expected, anticipated, or possible.
And for the first time in my life, I think I understand a different motivation to pray for others. Not in the strict of petitioning on their behalf. But rather, to pray for them the same may I might go to work for them so they could take a day off. (Ok - bad analogy - my praying for you doesn't change what prayer can do in your life, or "get you off the hook" for finding your own journey of prayer...but hopefully the analogy helps.) Not only is praying for you - in my prayer time, but also in my studies, and my spiritual formation, and in how I live and love and build up the community that is present to me - not only is praying for you in these ways the ONLY thing I can do...the prayers, support, and encouragement move me to pray on your behalf in these ways. I want to pray for you in these ways. I'm driven to that response much like I'm often moved to tears when coming face to face in the presence of God. It's not from a should, or a sense of repayment... but a natural, spontaneous upswelling of what I would call right response that, I further believe, comes from a place within wherein God dwells.
So, to you all, who've sent cards, and books, and prayers, and good wishes, and ALL the ways you've reached out to touch me, I want to say thank you. I'm humbled - really. And moved to pray for you in all that I do. In that way, I hope to unite you to what I hope to do here. And in that way, I pray, we will all come to know and serve the God of our understanding.
And that's what I say, today, "Peace be with you."