+Peace and goodness to you on this happy day!
Fr. Clayton. Fr. Clayton. Fr. Clayton. It is going to take awhile to get used to saying that, isn’t it? But it sure sounds great! You know, we know you. We’ve watched you grow up. We’ve seen it all. The good the bad and the unbelievable! And the stories that we could tell! – Stories of the torture of Billy, Rose, and Claire. Stories of what you made the van smell like, when you would get in after finishing football practice. Stories of landscaping, and dump trucks, and “You hit what?”. Stories of the combination of white wine and Power-Aid, and how you left your mark on the EternalCity. Stories of the time that you dressed up like a Nun and broke a ruler on my hand. Stories of Faith, and service, and family, and friends, and so many good times! But my all time favorite Fr. Clayton story, the one I have to share with you all today is one from when Fr. Clayton was in Jr. High school. We had gone to a car show in Auburn, Indiana, and on our way back to Carmel, we stopped at an Olive Garden for dinner. And as we were heading back to the car for the rest of the trip home, Big Brother Clayton, asked Billy, Rose, and Claire if they needed to go to the bathroom, before we got back on the road. Now, this was not unusual. Fr. Clayton was very used to keeping an eye on his younger brother and sisters, and watching out for them. Fr. Clayton has been doing youth ministry ever since he was in second grade! So Billy, Rose, and Claire all very dutifully trot off to the restroom. But then, he turns to me. Now, at that time, I was 42 years old and the associate pastor at his parish. And sure enough, in all seriousness, Fr. Clayton says, “And Fr. Kevin, how about you? Do you have to go to the bathroom before we get back on the road?” It had been awhile since anybody had asked me that question. I thought, “Who is this kid?” And what is God going to do with him? Father Clayton was practicing pastoral care even in Jr. High school!
Today, as we come together for Fr. Clayton’s first Mass, we hear another of the most amazing stories from Jesus’s life, the story of the raising from the dead of the widow’s son in Nain. And we know from the Gospels, that very much like Father Clayton, there were a lot of people who thought that they knew Jesus. He had relatives. A lot of people had watched him grow up also. He was the carpenter’s son, and many people would have known Him from his father’s shop. And then of course, when they had to confront the reality of what Jesus was doing, they had to admit that there was much more to this Jesus of Nazareth, than just what they knew. I mean, listen to our Gospel today, Jesus just touched the coffin of the Widow’s son, and he sat up. This doesn’t just happen. This is a miracle! This is extraordinary! This is God present and active right in front of these people’s eyes. They only thought that they knew this Jesus and they only thought that they knew what was going on, right in front of their eyes!
Today, what we have to acknowledge, is that that same God is still doing amazing, extraordinary, miracles right before our eyes. Yesterday, at our Cathedral, God took an extraordinary young man from our midst, from Carmel even! And just as He gave new life to the widow’s son, with the laying on of hands of our Bishop, God consecrated one of our own for His service. Fr. Clayton will never be the same again. Things are different. Just as God worked through His Son, Jesus Christ, two-thousand years ago, so now He is going to work through His servant, Fr. Clayton. We can’t begin to imagine as we pray here today at this first Mass all of the lives, all of the souls, that God will touch and affect through this new priests. The Masses, the homilies, the confessions, the Baptisms, and anointings, and the teaching! But the possibilities are endless! Such is our God!
And the truth is, that Fr. Clayton isn’t the only one called to serve God. We celebrate the Holy Priesthood of Jesus Christ today with this first Mass. But we’ve all got to know, each and every one of us shares in that priesthood also. While not in the same way as Fr. Clayton, God is using all of us, with or without collars, to build His Kingdom and to spread His Good News! We cannot leave this church today without a renewed commitment and sense of urgency that it is all of our jobs, to build up God’s Church. May Fr. Clayton’s commitment inspire all of us to do the same with our lives and our vocations!
There is a little known story from Mother Teresa’s life, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta’s life, that she told me once, and it is the story of her mother’s reaction and advice when she first left home to be a Sister. Mother Teresa’s mother didn’t want her to become a Sister. In fact, Mother Teresa said that her mother was dead set against it. It took awhile for God to change her heart. When she realized that this really was what God wanted for her daughter, Mother Teresa said that she said something very strange. She told Mother Teresa, “To put her hand in God’s hand and walk all alone with Him.” At the time, Mother Teresa said that she didn’t understand what this meant. She had a wonderful family. She was joining a wonderful community. Mother Teresa said that throughout her life she was always surrounded by all kinds of wonderful people. And all of that was great. But in the end, it had to be only about God. Her mother was right. And it was the best advice that she ever received. We too can be surrounded by many people, who are gifts from God. Our family and friends, our communities, our Church are all important and sustain us in our Faith, And yet, for all of us, our primary vocation is really lived out alone with Jesus. He must be the center of our lives and our hearts. To do the great things that God needs us to do, to bear fruit for Him as we are called, all of us make Jesus and keep Jesus the very center of our lives at all times. And that’s even true for new priests. God wants to do great things in all of us!
Fr. Clayton, we are all extremely proud of you today, as always. You have shown us Jesus Christ, and you will continue to do so, as you keep Him at the very center of your life. It is a great honor for all of us to be here with you at your First Mass. May God bless you always and make you a holy priest for all His people. We do know you. We do love you. And we can’t wait to see all the good that God is going to do through your priesthood.
+ May God bless all of us,on this happy day, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… AMEN !!!
St. Maria Goretti… Pray for us !!!