The Sweet Aftertaste of this Place
Farewell Remarks delivered on June 27, 2010 at Holy Spirit Parish/The Newman Center at the University of Kentucky, Lexington KY
Every priest has a dream list of parish assignments. Some of the parishes on my list are churches that I have been assigned to as a seminarian, congregations that have welcomed me before and whose parishioners I know by name. I also have written down a few that were close enough to the big city of Lexington but far enough from the Bishop. This parish of Holy Spirit though, to be honest with you, was not on my list.
I neither foresaw nor expected being assigned here at the Newman Center because I didn’t believe that I had the gift for campus ministry. I had gone to school in a different country and studied under a different system. Therefore, I saw the American college experience as something altogether foreign. I doubted that a lifelong geek like me could ever connect with kids who often think that they are too cool for Church. But I have learned that the Lord sends us to encounter people not only to minister to them but also so that we can be ministered by them. Whatever campus and parish ministry that I have done here at the Newman Center comes from the inspiration, advice, and direction that I have received from the staff. I am grateful for their graciousness in teaching me and supporting me these past nine months.
I also had feared coming to the Newman Center because I assumed that most of the people here do not think theologically like I do. I thought that I would have had trouble preaching to this parish but the truth is that this parish actually taught me how to preach better. It was here that I became more focused in preparing my homilies, more committed in keeping them precise and clear, more open to letting the depth of God’s Word speak. I have learned that the Gospel is much larger than my theology or yours, and it demands to be preached. And even I, a priest of God, cannot contain the infinite riches that the Word of God has to offer. Mindful of this lesson, I give to the parish a farewell gift: a new Sunday lectionary. It has been a joy and a privilege sharing with you the Word of God. May you continue to be nourished by this same Word who takes us from right, left, and center and in the end brings us together to His table to share the one Eucharist.
There is a line in the song “Anatevka” from Fiddler on the Roof that I think sums up the experience of Sunday liturgy here at the Newman Center: “Where else would Sabbath be so sweet?” As someone who has had to move so much, I have learned to find my joy not in the place where I celebrate the Sabbath but rather in the Lord of the Sabbath. But for the brief time that you have allowed me to share in the Spirited sweetness of your Sabbath, I am filled with thanksgiving and I will savor the sweet aftertaste of this place for years to come.
I realize now how foolish I have been, taking the Newman Center out of my dream list of parish assignments. All along it should have been one of those right there at the top.