This homily was preached on the occasion of the taking of Final Vows by a Vincentian seminarian, Alex Palacios, in Philadelphia, PA.
I recently came across a sentence commenting on these words Jesus speaks in John’s 6th chapter — “no one can come to me unless the Father draw him.” The commentary was this: “The life of grace is a dance of God’s initiative; and that is, a kindling of our desire, God’s generous offer, and our response.”
It struck me how well that sequence — a kindling of desire, God’s offer, and a person’s response — fits for this afternoon’s celebration, that of a young man making a life-long promise to set out anew on the Vincentian Way.
First, there’s that kindling of desire. Somewhere along the way, something stirred in Jose Alex Palacios, something beckoned, something woke up. And as we know, these kinds of stirrings are not totally self-induced, but are the beginnings of that “dance” prompted by God’s Holy Spirit.
And then there’s God’s generous offer, the gradual dawning of the possibilities being offered, possibilities that stretch out promisingly in front of a person. These possibilities are filled with the Father’s presence. Or in the words of readings, they are charged with that “draw” Jesus refers to . It entices, attracts, maybe even beguiles.
And then there’s the response. Someone listening says a fuller (and still yet fuller) yes to this invitation, to this summons forward.
And isn’t that where we are today with Alex Palacios’ stepping out in what that writer called the “dance of God’s initiative,” that call and response which go to make up what’s involved in making an evangelical vow.
Alex’s promise is not some vague intention, but has a definite shape to it. It’s to walk in the footsteps of St Vincent de Paul and of all those who have travelled his road over the centuries. This is the road that passes particularly through the lives of the poor and abandoned, a path along which Alex himself has already frequently walked as a seminarian. It also follows in the steps of those many other men and women who set out to minister in this same spirit.
Which brings us to all of us here, people who have also promised to travel the Gospel road — and for many of us, to walk this Vincentian road.
Alex, we pledge you our prayers and our active support as you move further into this “dance of God’s initiative.”
To finish up, I can’t resist pulling in the interchange between Phillip and the angel in the 8th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. The angel commands Phillip to get up and head south on the road. And then the text says, “So Phillip set out.”
The road pointed out to Alex ran north, up from Central America. And he did get up and set out, and for years now has moved along it. Here in this definitive way this afternoon, he is again stepping out on it once more, walking into that future that God’s initiative and promise continues to lay out before him — and indeed before all of us.
Alex, we also would echo that Gospel message: in the name of Jesus Christ, “get up and set out…”