“DO YOU LOVE ME MORE THAN THESE?”

by Metropolitan Nicholas of Amissos
American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese in the U.S.A.

 

Delivered to the Eleventh Biennial Clergy Symposium

Antiochian Village, July 17th - 21st, 2000

Ligonier, Pennsylvania

July 18, 2000

 

Beloved Brothers and Fellow Servants in the Lord, Christ is in our midst!

I greet you in the love and joy of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest. I am very pleased to be with you today, to share with you some thoughts on our mutual love and the bond that so closely links us together — the Priesthood.

Indeed, we stand at the threshold of the third Christian millennium, in a world that is changing more rapidly and maybe even more radically, than it ever has in history. Times, customs, ethics, values, symbols — all of the things that we have taken for granted seem to be acquiring new and often unintended significance. The needs of the people of God, the people that we spiritually serve and who meet our physical needs, have acquired the same complexity as the surrounding society. We cannot tell whether society is shaping us or we are shaping society, but the reality is that the world is changing and along with it — our parishioners.

How are we to meet their needs in this twenty-first century? What message of hope and security can we bring them in the age of near-universal anxiety?  What message of sacrifice and abstinence can we bring them in this age of plenty and self-indulgence?  What message of a miraculous faith can we bring them in this age of technological wonders?

How we answer these questions may well determine — not the success — but the effectiveness of our ministries. I think we all know that you can look successful without being effective. It is the age-old difference between quality and quantity. As the Proverb says: “Better a tasty morsel in peace than a house full of sumptuous goods, unrighteous offerings and strife” (17:1, LXX).

So often, we become too comfortable in our parishes, exchanging the vitality of the Gospel for the lifestyle of the Parish. But appearances can be very deceiving — especially to ourselves. What passes for leadership is only cheerleading. What passes for pastoral attention is self-aggrandizement. What passes for love is a condescending pat on the back. The deeper emotions of mercy, compassion, humility and patience never seem to surface in our work.

Perhaps this is because we have grown cold in our love for the Priesthood.., or at least lukewarm. The tongue of fire that was lit during our seminary days and following our ordination — the excitement of our first assignment — the miracle of our direct experience of mediating the love and mercy of God, especially through the Divine Liturgy — all of these and more — they seem to change, to become dull and distant memories and finally settle into routine.

Now, I make these observations not to condemn anyone in particular, nor would I lump every priest together with such a sweeping generalization. I say these things because I believe that every priest, from time to time, struggles with the worldly aspects of his vocation. And in an increasingly complex and entangling world, we need moments, such as this one, to step back from the daily routine of our lives and catch a glimpse of the reality of how and why we are living every day.

Even after a pinnacle of personal faith experience, we can become let down, deflated, depressed, exhausted, and even despairing. I think of the Apostle Peter after the Resurrection. After everything he had been through — the highs, the lows:

The miraculous draught of fishes at his calling,

The confession of faith, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God,

The witness of the Lord’s power of Resurrection at the raising of the daughter of Jairus,

The extraordinary vision on Mount Tabor., where he became — as he later writes, an eyewitness of the majesty of God (cf. II Peter 1:16),

All these remarkable and life-changing events — not to mention the three years spent sharing the daily life of our Lord.

And what happens to the one who was indignant of any indignity to the Lord, who refused at first to let Him wash his feet? What happens to Peter at the most critical moment of his discipleship, on the night the Lord is betrayed, the same night that Peter received the First Communion at the Mystical Supper? What happens as the Lord sweats drops of His precious blood in His agonizing prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane?

He falls asleep. Peter … falls asleep.

I think that sometimes, because the story is so familiar, that we gloss over this incredible — nearly unthinkable — lapse of the Prince of Apostles. As our Lord Jesus Christ is preparing His very soul, His humanity, to fall asleep in the flesh on the bed of nails that awaits Him on Golgotha, Peter sleeps for the sake of his flesh, for his own refreshment. You see … he was tired. His eyelids, as the Scriptures say, were heavy. The contrast between the Master sweating blood and the servant dozing off is almost too much to comprehend. And yet, there it is, staring us in the face of our humanity, like a mirror for us in which to consider our Priesthood.

For, we are certainly not any better than Peter. We cannot claim to have had the experience, intimacy or knowledge of the Lord that he had. So how is it that we imagine ourselves as attentive to the Lord before the Holy Altar? Are we really present before Him? Are our minds pure and clean from every earthly care and every worldly thought? Do we say the words of the Liturgy with our hearts, or merely read them with our lips. Or yet worse, as I know we are all tempted from time to time, to read with the eye alone!

My brothers! Are we asleep at the Altar? Spiritually asleep? The Altar is also a Garden of Gethsemane, for the Precious Blood of the Lord is there. He is with us in prayer, in supplication. He ministers to us as we come before Him with our most honest prayers, just as He was honest in His humanity about facing death. He even sends us His Angels to strengthen us, as the Angel appeared also to Him. But where in the Garden are we?

You know that it says in the Scripture that the distance between the Lord and His disciples in that Garden was no more than a stone’s throw. And yet … how far apart they were.

How far apart are we from the Lord when we come before Him at the Altar? Or are we sleepwalking through the processions, displaying by rote that which has been buried beneath layers of pride, greed, selfishness, and even hurt, disappointment and personal loss. Or worse, have we taken our ministry for granted for so long, that we have become lazy? Have our spiritual eyelids grown heavy?

The actual Garden of Gethsemane was a place of activity, of production. In fact, the word “Gethsemane” means “Oil Press.” It was here, at the base of the Mount of Olives, that the oil was extracted from the olive groves that densely packed the mountain. What is pressed out of us as we stand before the Altar? We know what the Lord gave … His own Blood. But His grace, the grace of the Priesthood that has been poured on us, is given that through our ministry the grace of the Spirit may (BE) extracted for others, to refresh and anoint their lives. Every Mystery of the Church, every Sacrament, is a testimony to this fact.

Surely, we do not believe that our Sacraments are efficacious only because we have been legally and canonically ordained! We are not priests of the Old Law, but of the New! Whether we feel it or not, realize it, comprehend it, understand it or have any sense of His operation, the Holy Spirit uses us as vessels, pressing out the grace and power of God through us. Through the Sacraments, the grace and energy of God pour forth, pressed, as it were, out of the insufficiency of our ministry, for the salvation and sanctification of the faithful. Thankfully, the grace of God is always sufficient, as the Apostle Paul heard from the Lord Who said (II Cor. 12:9): “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is perfected by weakness.” Whose weakness? Not His, but our voluntary, confessing, self-emptying weakness that strives, “not by power nor by mighty strength, but by My Spirit” as the Lord said through the Prophet Zechariah (4:6)! More of such power in a moment …

The question remains: which example do we follow from the actual events in Gethsemane? Do we sleep through our ministry, or join the Lord through inner vigilance, attention, and prayer? He invites us as He invited Peter, John and James (Matt 26:38): “Abide with Me, stay with Me here and watch with Me.” With Me! What an honor! What a privilege! This is the glory of the Priesthood! Before the Holy Altar, we abide with Christ, and if we are living in the truth of our Priesthood, we are vigilant — not for Him (He Who created the many-eyed Cherubim does not need our vigilance), but with Him! This is no onerous, miserable duty, but joy, light and life! If we are miserable, or tired, or sleepy, or burdened in our Priesthood, before Him at His Holy Altar, it is not His burden. It is ours alone. His yoke is easy and His burden is light! (cf. Matt. 11:30)

This should have been the low point for Peter, but as we all know, Gethsemane was only the springboard for a headlong dive. By the next morning, he would hit rock-bottom. But perhaps his three-fold denial of the Lord was prefigured by his violence during those last moments in Gethsemane, during the arrest of the Lord.

You remember how he drew his sword and severed the ear of Malchos, the slave of the High Priest. As the events of the salvation of the world were unfolding before his very eyes, he sought only control, only power, only means that he could imagine. In the presence of the Peace that passes understanding, he chose violence. By choosing human terms of power, trying to force the occasion, he wrought only pain and suffering.

It seems that most people think of Peter as a man of physical power and prowess. He was, in fact, a fisherman and earned his living with his hands. He also was a natural leader, seeking to take matters into his own hands. These two traits, admirable at first glance, combined in him to blind him from the purposes of God. His self-reliance became a block to his understanding of the will of God. For us who serve the Orthodox Christian Faithful of this country, it is often our leadership abilities, our strengths, our competencies that frustrate the work of God. In a word, we think we know better than God does. We look at the state of the Church through lenses of our own making. To feed our egos, we focus on our strengths and ignore those of our brothers. We create, or we enter into conflicts that we cannot possible win, because we are stubborn-headed and hard-hearted.

Having failed to be vigilant in the Garden when he is with alone with the Lord and the community of faith, Peter succumbs to what is basically and fundamentally worst in humanity. Just as the first crime was a fratricide, so now, Peter rejects the brotherhood of man that Christ offers and strikes out in panic, in anger, in fear, in rage … in the whole complex of emotions that tear the world apart every day. Only at the rebuke of the Lord, Who reminds Peter of the eternal purposes of God, does the sword return to its scabbard. “Put your sword back in its sheath,” He says, “The Cup that the Father has given to Me, am I never to drink It?” (John 18:11)

At this point, without an inner vigilant eye, and having given in to the baser side of human nature, Peter is ready to sink. He does not call to mind how he once walked upon the water, at least as long as his eyes were on the Lord. You remember his little faith:

Peter called out to Jesus and said: “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You over the waves.” Jesus said: “Come!” And Peter lowered himself out of the boat and walked over the waves, making his way to Jesus. However, when Peter saw how strong the wind was, he became afraid and he began to sink Then he cried out: “Lord, save me!” Jesus instantly reached out His hand and took hold of him, saying to him “Such little trust! Why were you in doubt?” (Matt 14:28-31)

Oligopistos! The one with little faith. Only a mustard seed’s worth could move a mountain and hurl it into the sea, but now, there is not even that little morsel of faith. And Peter is ready to sink in a more fearful abyss than any storm that could rage upon the sea. He is ready to sink into the darkest corners of fear and self-obsession, where only the prophetic word of the Lord can save him, the Lord Who said: “Before the cock crows twice, you shall deny me thrice!” (Mark 14:30)

Perhaps some of you thought that this was the “low” I was speaking of at first, and you were a little surprised by how much time I have spent speaking of the events in Gethsemane. But the events in the Garden reveal that which is to come. For the failure of Peter is a failure unto salvation. The same is true more times than not for us in our ministry.

We fail like Peter, not because we are not perfect, but because we are human! The very faults that we make us what we are … do you not think that God has already accounted for them in our ministry. Is He not a providential and all-knowing God? Then how could He not make provision for our weaknesses.  The problem is that we do not make provision for our weaknesses. If we did, then we would be humble. The fact is that it is our arrogance that gets us in trouble in the first place. It is our self-reliance, our trust in our own understanding that brings us to despair. We forget the Proverb (3:5) that says: “Rely upon God and trust Him with all your heart, and do not exalt your own wisdom.”

But even in the midst of his sliding away, Peter shows the spark of his ultimate and true intentions, for after the arrest in the Garden it says (John 18:15):

“Now Peter and the Other Disciple, the Evangelist and Theologian John, were following Jesus.” Following Jesus! This had been the call from the beginning, the day Peter loaned the Lord his boat so He could preach to the crowds. You remember this encounter, not their first, but one of their most memorable.

When Jesus broke off His address, He said to Simon Peter:

“Launch out into the deep and cast out your nets for a catch!” Peter responded by saying to Him: “Rabbi, we worked all night long and caught not one thing! But, at Your word … I’ll throw out the net!” And as they were doing just that they netted a huge school of fish, so many that their net began to tear apart. Peter even called out to his partners who were in the other boat to come and help them. They came, but even using both boats for the catch, they were sinking. When he saw all this, Simon Peter fell on his knees before Jesus and said: “Lord, You best depart from me! I am a sinful man!” (Do you see his deep-seated emotions, the pure humanity of his heart?) But Jesus said to him: “Don’t be afraid. From now on, you’ll be catching people, reeling them in to life!” And when they had brought the boats to the shore, they left everything behind and followed Him. (Luke5:4-8, 10,11)

Peter did not know how to follow Christ, but he did know to follow Him! And so, he followed Him that night, one last time on the way to the Cross, though he did not yet know it.

Later, this pair of Disciples, Peter and John, would travel again together, this time to another Garden, to the Sepulcher in the Garden, to see what had so shocked the women disciples of the Lord. But for the moment, let us listen to John’s narration of what happened that fateful night:

This particular disciple (John himself) was acquainted with the High Priest (this was Annas. The father-in-law of Caiaphas) and entered the courtyard of the High Priest at the same time Jesus did. But Peter had been standing outside by the door. So, the Other Disciple (the one acquainted with the High Priest) went out, spoke to the gatekeeper and brought Peter inside. (John 18:15,16)

What was Peter thinking outside that door? What was he expecting? He obviously wanted to go in, but his own intentions were clouded, much like the way we serve the Lord. We are anxious, eager to follow Him, but to what end? What is our purpose? What is our mission?

Peter was called to be an Apostle. As priests, we are called to be the successors of the Apostles.

But an apostle, at its most rudimentary meaning, is One Who is Sent! Sent by another! Our Lord Himself said it explicitly: “I did not come of Myself but He — the Father — sent Me.” (John 8:42)

If our Lord was sent, and submitted Himself to be sent, how much more should we submit ourselves? The slave is not greater than the Master. But who is our master? If we believe that the Priesthood — so mercifully and graciously granted to us — is our private domain, and not the dominion of our Heavenly Father, then whose mission will we be fulfilling?

From whom do we receive our orders, our commands, our commandments? Who is our general?

Who leads us into battle? Who has given us the weapons of the faith, the whole armor of God, the invincible trophy of the Precious and Life-giving Cross?  And when we are wounded in the fight, who restores us by transfusing us with His own Precious Blood? In the battle, my brothers, it is not words that count, but deeds!

Our Priesthood is our apostleship, our commission from God Himself to be His servants and to perform and accomplish His will. Just as the Lord prayed in His perfect High Priestly Prayer:

“Just as You sent Me, Father, into the world, even so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself that they also might be sanctified by Truth. But I am not asking only for these. Indeed, I am asking for those who believe in Me because of them, that they may be one, even as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You, that they may also be one in Us, that the world might believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:18-21)

On that most holy night in which He gave Himself up for the life of the world, our Lord asked not only for His Disciples, He asked for you and for me. He prayed for those who would continue the work of “being sent” — the work of Apostleship, the work that He had commenced Himself by being made flesh and dwelling among us.

And He prayed for our unity in Him. He asked God the Father to keep us in oneness with each other, so that our witness to Him might be authentic for the world to believe. Here then, is the test of our ministry. And this is no excuse for either ecumenical insincerity or jurisdictional wrangling. Our unity is founded and guaranteed in Him! We can neither undo it nor create it! All we can do is witness to it. He did not say that the world would believe, therefore making unity an end in itself (as it seems to have become today). He said, that they might believe, that there might be the possibility of belief through the witness of a unity built on love, love, and more love. There are no substitutes, no formulas, no dialogues, no administrative models that can substitute for love.

But let us not leave Peter outside the door to the courtyard of Annas. Let us return to his thoughts, his purpose; if there was one at all, except that nearly instinctual attraction that Peter had for Christ, the same attraction that had led him to say some years before, “Lord, to whom shall we go back? You have the sayings of life eternal! Moreover, we believe and we know that You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” (John 6:69,70)

Peter’s instincts, if you will, were right on. His confession was true, his theology correct — Orthodox! His spirit was indeed willing, but his flesh …?

The evangelist continues:

Then the gatekeeper (a young serving girl) said to Peter: “Aren’t you also one of This Man’s disciples?” Peter replied: “I am not!” (John 18:17)

Really, when you think about it, it happens too quickly. It speeds by in the narrative without so much as a glance from the Evangelist. In a moment — but not the twinkling of an eye, rather the blinking that comes from weakness and fear — Peter scuttles three years of his apostleship. He now hurls headlong into the sea of doubt, fear, and failure. He denies the Lord.

He confessed Him as God, but denies Him before man. He rebuked Him as Man (cf. Matt.16:22), and deserts Him as God. He who given the keys of the Kingdom is locked — imprisoned by fear — at the sound of the gatekeeper’s voice.

All the high-sounding words, all his training in the presence of the Lord, all the miracles he witnessed, they cannot free Him from the prison he has willfully entered. He trusted the flesh, his own perceptions about God, the world and himself. And when the moment came, he failed.

What is worse, as if to show the coldness of his heart at that moment, we are left with this description:

Now some of the slaves and attendants who had been standing around had built a fire because it was cold, and they were warming themselves. And Peter stood right along side of them, warming himself. (John 18:18)

While our Lord was being beaten, slapped, cursed, spit upon, humiliated … Peter warms himself by the fire. He spared himself no comfort at the precise moment the Lord of Heaven and earth spared Himself no pain!

My brothers in Christ, this should be a most disturbing image for us to consider. How often have we stood by, warming ourselves in the comforts of our ministries, while the Lord languishes in the prisons of men’s hearts, scoffed, discarded, pummeled and struck without pity? Like every other person, we are attracted to comfort like moths to the flame, like Peter to that fire so many centuries ago. Our own denial may not be so verbal, so articulate, but is it any less real? And even when given a second chance and even a third chance, sin and its evil offspring, guilt, have a way of producing even worse results. Listen to the Evangelist:

Then, another woman looked at Peter and shouted out to everyone: “This man was also there, with Jesus of Nazareth!” And again he denied it swearing that: “I do not know the Man!” After a little while, some of the people milling about came up to him and said: “You are definitely one of them, for even your accent betrays you!” Then he exploded in a fit of cursing and swearing: “I do not know the Man!” And at that very instant, the cock crowed. (Matt. 26:71-74)

From denial, to swearing oaths, to cursing. All to deny that he ever knew the Lord Who had rescued his body and soul from the waves of the sea and the turmoil of the world. It truly is a shocking moment in the Gospel, in all four Gospels. Perhaps it appears in all four as a solemn warning, especially for us who are priests. It is a reminder of how far we can come … and then how far we can fall.

Thankfully, although Peter may have primed himself for this fall in the Garden of Gethsemane, unlike Judas, he did not betray Him. And unlike Judas who, the Scripture says, did not repent but rather changed his mind about what he had done, Peter,

… remembered what Jesus had said to him: “Before the cockcrow, you shall deny Me three times!” And he went out and wept bitterly. (Matt. 26:75)

He went out and wept bitterly, wept for his sins, wept for his failure, wept for his denial. Judas hung himself … Peter wept. Judas took his own life … Peter rediscovered his through repentance. And because of his genuine repentance, our Lord restored him, readying him once again for ministry.

If you read the accounts of Resurrection, Peter always seems to be present, but not particularly in touch with what is going on. He runs to the tomb with John, but goes home afterwards in a state of bewilderment (cf. Luke 24:12). He is present in the Upper Room both times when Christ appears. The Disciples who met the Risen Lord on the road to Emmaus return to Jerusalem to hear that the Lord has appeared to Peter, Risen from the dead (cf. Luke 24:34). But after all this, what does Peter do?

He goes back to fishing.

It is really a remarkable turn of events. He returned to what he thought he knew. He tried his hand at basics again.  I truly believe that there is something admirable in this, because our own ministries very often need to return to the pastoral basics.  We become enamored of programs, and speakers, and studies and techniques. We forget about the fact that our faithful, even in this new digital world, still need the basics of the faith. And they need the basics of good pastoral care. Peter did not yet know how to be a great shepherd, but he knew where his beginnings were.  He knew where the Lord had called him. He knew his vocation, a fisherman — destined to be a fisher of men. So, he returned to the sea and to his nets, as we chant in one of the Matins.

They went off and set sail in the boat, but during that night, for all their efforts, they did not catch a thing. It was already morning as Jesus stood on the shore, yet the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. Then Jesus called out to them: “Little children, have you anything to eat?” They answered back: “No.” Then He said to them: “Cast the net out over the right side of the boat and you’ll find some!” So, they cast it out, but then they could no longer draw the net up because of the size of the catch. Then that disciple, the one whom Jesus dearly loved, said to Peter: “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard “It is the Lord:” he tied his robe around his waist (he was to that moment bare-chested) and threw himself headlong into the sea. (John 21:3-7)

What a difference repentance makes. What wisdom comes from love! Peter doesn’t think about the water; neither fear nor pride. He hurls himself in because he cannot wait to see his Lord, to worship his Master, to embrace his God! Would that every priest who toils both day and night to fill the nets of the Church would leap and jump so at every chance to be with the Lord in the Divine Liturgy. For that is the very meal that awaited them with Jesus on the shore.

Now when they set foot on land they saw a bed of hot embers carefully arranged, and a fish set over the coals, and some bread. Jesus said to them: “Bring some of the fish that you have caught just now.” Simon Peter went back and hauled the net up on dry land; it was bulging full of huge fishes — one hundred and fifty and three! And even though there were so many, yet the net did not tear. Jesus said to them: “Come, eat some breakfast” (John 21:9-12)

This time, the net does not tear, not like the first encounter on the Sea of Galilee. That is because Christ wants everyone in the Church. As Orthodox, we may be exclusive in our Faith, but never exclusionary. Maintaining the purity of the Apostolic Faith is a great privilege and weighty responsibility, not an excuse for either arrogance or prejudice. If we are faithful, the means that we construct to edify the faith — our boats if you will — may not be adequate to contain the results. That is okay. But the Lord has made provision that we will be able to bring everybody safely to shore. The nets shall not tear!

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter: “Simon, son of Jonas, do you Love Me more than these?” Peter said to Him: “Yes, Lord, You know we are friends.” Jesus said to him: “Nourish My little lambs.” Then He said to him again a second time: “Simon, son of Jonas, do you love Me?” Peter said to Him: “Yes, Lord, You know we are friends” Jesus said to him: “Shepherd My sheep.” Jesus spoke to him a third time: “Simon, son of Jonas do You like Me?” Peter looked downcast because He said to him for a third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ and replied to Him: “Lord, You know everything! You know that I have love for You!” Jesus said to him: “Pasture My sheep. Amen, Amen I say unto you; when you were a young man, you used to gird yourself up and walk about wherever you pleased. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will gird you, and force you on where you desire not.” (Now He said this signifying by what death Peter would glorify God.) And after He pronounced this He said to him: “Follow Me!” (John 21:15-19)

Here, in this wonderful passage, we come to pearl of great price, the treasure buried in the field. Peter seems utterly unaware of what the Lord is doing. Peter is being bathed with forgiveness and acceptance, prepared for the ministry that awaits him.

I have chosen to quote the passage reflecting the differing Greek words used for love, “philia” and “agapi.” I believe there is a great lesson for all of us to be learned from their careful and deliberate use.

The Lord questions Peter in a three-fold manner, to reverse the three-fold denial. He asks for Peter’s love, his perfect sacrificial love — agapi — but Peter cannot respond in kind. Not that he doesn’t think that he is. Peter does not yet see the difference.

The Lord follows each question with a command; they all say the same thing a different way:

“Nourish My little lambs,” “Shepherd My sheep,” “Pasture My sheep.” Each command is replete with imagery of feeding, nurturing, nourishing, guarding, protecting, guiding, leading, shepherding.

After the first command, the Lord asks him again, ‘Do you love Me,’ and Peter once again answers with less than he is asked. The Lord desires our love, but we more times than not offer Him much less. The second commandment ensues.

However, in the third question, the question that cancels out the three-fold denial, the Lord does not use the word “agapi.” He uses Peter’s expression. It is as if even in this most sacred and holy exchange, an exchange that brings about restoration and healing, the Lord condescends to our ability, our capacity, our level of love. He asks us to be perfect, but he accepts us and uses us with all our imperfections!

What a miracle of sacrifice, even after the glory of the Resurrection!

Such a miracle, my brothers, is the essence of the Priesthood. Without such a miracle, we could never be pleasing to God. But He accepts us as we are, just as He accepted Peter as he was. All He asks in return — and not only asks, He commands — is that we feed His flock. It may not be in the way that we want, anticipate or have planned. Peter learned he would be bound by another and taken in a way he would not have chosen. But we did not choose Him. He chose us. The call is the same for us as it was for Peter so long ago: “Follow Me.”

May each of us find the strength, the courage, the faith and the love to follow Him, no matter what the cost. May the Holy Prince of the Apostles Peter be are guide and example, leading us always back to Christ and to His mercy. And may we all find the joy and fulfillment of our Priesthood — His Priesthood — in following after Him.

Amen.

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