Follow the Leader

Written by Sr. Rosemary Finnegan, O.P.
Readings from:

In today’s readings, Jesus and Paul are each aware that they are completing their life’s work and are reflecting on the way they had responded to their calling. Their individual approaches to the mission are unique and diverse.

Jesus primary concern is that the Father be glorified, and his life of obedience, even unto death on a cross, brought that glory to the Father.  All the stories he told, the questions he posed, the parables he shared, each pointed to and explained who God the Father is.  Through his priestly prayer that we hear today, Jesus shows and wants us to know that our purpose is to glorify His Father God in our lives, too, and this glory should spill over into providing for the welfare of all God’s people.

When Paul preached, his style was one of boldness.  He was a convert and his heart was on fire for Christ.  The person of Christ was his primary focus.  He explained and proclaimed Christ to his hearers as their Lord, their Savior and their hope.  Paul credits the Holy Spirit with giving his preaching such power.  To the many church communities he founded on his travels, he was devoted, caring, instructive, sometimes admonishing and always committed. He continually charged them to be witnesses themselves.

Today the church also celebrates the feast of St. Philip Neri who, although he was a serious confessor and preacher in the 1500’s, was also known for his cheerfulness and sense of humor.  He proclaimed Christ with joy. After being a businessman for many years, he eventually went to Rome, was ordained a priest and founded the Oratorian Fathers.  He had an affable personality which attracted him to both the poor, to whom he was generous, and the hierarchy with whom he partnered in prayer and liturgy.  He was humble, poor, and practiced mortification, but he was also a jokester and a prankster.  Sometimes, as a penance meant to rid someone of pride, St. Philip would tell  a pompous penitent to carry his cat around Rome.  Although he lived in the turbulent times of the Middle Ages and the Protestant Revolt, he found and spread joy in his preaching to others. 

Jesus, Paul and Philip Neri all lived out their call from God in their own unique way, with the individual gifts they were given, and in the troubled times in which they lived.  They had a personal relationship with God first and they relied on the Holy Spirit to be with them.

We are surely living in troubled times ourselves as we face loss and uncertainty on many levels.  But we are first and foremost witnesses of Christ with our own unique gifts and talents as well.  We are also being called to deepen our prayer life, rely on the Holy Spirit, and practice our faith in our own present circumstances.

May we be like Jesus, Paul and Philip Neri, and use our gifts to give glory to the Father and encouragement to others with a heartfelt spirit of joy.