4th Sunday of Easter (Good Shepherd Sunday) “By Paths Unknown He Guided Me” PDF Version
Homily for the 4thSunday of Easter, Year B (2018): Good Shepherd Sunday
The 4thSunday of Easter is also known unofficially as Good Shepherd Sunday. It is on this day that the Church around the world prayers for priests, seminarians and for more men to accept the call to follow Jesus Christ and become good shepherds after His own Sacred Heart. It is also common for a priest to share his own vocation story today and seeing as I have only just arrived as your new pastor, it seems fitting that I share with you all how it came to pass that Jesus called me to become a priest for service in the Church and the world.
A scripture passage that frequent comes to mind when I consider my call to the priesthood is from the Prophet Isaiah who long ago said “By paths unknown I will guide them.” My parents both worked in Waterton Lakes National Park as university students and so hiking was a perpetual part of my upbringing, starting out with short hikes to eventually scrambling up mountains and in recent years venturing in the world of sport rock climbing. If you have a well defined path before you, the journey is a safe and pleasant one, when the path is unknown, it can often fill you with fear but also offer incredible excitement and reward when you figure out how to tred that path.
I would describe my own journey towards the priesthood to be walking both paths known and unknown. I did not think about becoming a priest as a child. While my family faithfully attended Sunday Mass and I enjoyed being an altar server and learning about the Catholic faith, the path I wanted walk in life was the one I watched being undertaken by my father. As a committed Catholic, family doctor, faithful husband, and loving father who spent time teaching us to ski, hike and enjoy the outdoors, I was given an example of a vocation to married life and fatherhood that I wanted to imitate, walking a well known path that has brought many men closer to God and helped them live as good and faithful stewards of the Lord.
As I entered into my teenage years, I continued to see myself as one day being a doctor, father and husband, but I also began to question my own belief in Our Church and also considered how committed I wanted to be the path I believed I was suppose to walk. Daydreams of spending my life as a professional snowboarder or DJ, living in some upscale condo in a famous city, having plenty of material things and lots of free time to live for myself began to dominate my life. Strangely, it was in these teenage years of questioning and trying to figure out my purpose in life that I received my first subtle call to walk the unknown path towards priesthood.
It took place in 1997 when I was blessed to attend the World Youth Days in Paris. I was only 14 but I was deeply impacted by the witness of St John Paul II meeting more than 1 million young Catholics in Paris and calling us to be Christians in the world, loving Christ in the Holy Eucharist and entrusting our lives to the care of the Holy Mother of God.While I did not think about becoming a priest at this time, I was convicted to consider more seriously how committed I would be to the Catholic Church. Would I make the faith my own or just simply attend Mass on Sunday with my family but think of God very little during the rest of the week nor allow Him to form and shape my life?
By the end of High School, I had to humbly admit that I would not become a doctor as I struggled in the world of math and sciences and was more inclined to literature, history and the study of religion, even if I remained unsure just how much I wanted to be part of the Catholic faith. Having little desire to go to university right away, I went on a trek to Nepal, walking along unknown paths on the ceiling of the world and there undergoing an unexpected conversion of sorts.
While I was not interested in becoming part of the Buddhist faith, I was struck by two qualities of the people living in the hidden valleys of the Himalayas. The first was that they were very detached from worldly things, being content with having very little but being incredible happy. I in contrast had many material things compared to them but had a deep sadness in my heart about life in general as the path of consuming more and more of this world’s goods was no longer satisfying.
I was also struck by the devotion these people had to their religion. It formed a very natural part of their lives, from hanging up prayer flags to reciting simple prayers as they walked up and down the mountains. I began to consider how I had spent many years not wanting to practice my faith for others to see, keeping it hidden away and very personal but without being courageous enough to tell others I was a Catholic Christian and though still trying to find my place in the Church was nonetheless proud to be a member of the Holy Church of God.
Upon returning from Nepal, I began to prepare for university at McGill, studying history but having very little idea where these studies would lead me. It was in the city of Montreal, once known as Ville Marie, or the City of Mary, that God set me on an unknown path that was both terrifying yet filled with peace and certainty.
One of my roommates was a devout Catholic from Kenya who had the apostolic zeal to ask me to begin attending early morning Masses with him before we went to classes. I for one only thought you went to Mass on Sunday but I agreed to go and quickly found these early morning Masses to be a quiet and peaceful way to begin my day. And then one day, after having received Holy Communion, the Lord whom I had just received into my body and soul showed me in a moment of peace, clarity and certainty, that I was now to begin walking an unknown path with Him towards His Holy Priesthood.
My initial reaction to this call was a mix of excitement and fear as I pondered the ways this was not what I had planned in life, how inadequate I felt to be a priest and how God could be asking this of me. Fortunately, under the direction of a holy priest in Montreal, I spent the year discerning how best to begin walking this unknown path and eventually I was accepted to begin my seminary studies.
After 8 years of seminary formation and 7 years of ministry as a Catholic priest, I am forever grateful to God that he set me on this unknown path, guiding me everyday, showing me where I need to grow in love of Him and others, where I require ongoing conversion and forgiveness for my sins, and how to confront new unknown paths that come my way, such as being sent here to beautiful Canmore to be your new pastor and work with you all as we prepare for the arrival of our shrine church and our mission of being Catholic Christians here in the Bow Valley and beyond.
That is my story, by paths unknown He guided me and continues to lead me. He is calling other men to follow Him as well. Please pray for more vocations to the priesthood, that men will not be afraid of the unknown paths set before them and be ready and willing to become faithful shepherds who resemble The Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.