Life at 102: God does save the best wine for last!

By Father Rodney Kissinger, S.J.
Diocese of Lafayette

It is said that the good die young and the smart leave.

That says an awful lot about me. Yes, I am a witness to the Gospel truth that God chooses the weak to confound the strong and the foolish to confound the learned.

We all like to think of ourselves as achievers, but the basic fact of life is that we are primarily receivers, not achievers. We all started out as zero, zip, nada. We did not ask to be. We did nothing to get here. My very existence is a gift of God. What am I anyway but a conglomeration of the gifts of God? What do I have that I have not received? So from all eternity, my most basic relationship with God is one of gratitude.

I am a witness to the fidelity of the love of God. When God calls someone, he reveals very little. There is just the basic call: “Come, follow me.” It is an invitation to start out on a journey – a journey of faith, a journey of faith into the unknown. There is no script, no map, no job description and no blueprint.

God does not promise a rose garden. He promises only that whatever the garden, be it the Garden of Eden or the Garden of Gethsemane, he will be there. He will be faithful. And, in spite of all of my infidelities, he has been faithful to me beyond my wildest expectations, and, once again, he has saved the very best wine until last.

Gifts are the language of love. The more one loves, the more one gives.

Freed from ‘self’ perfection

I am free at last from the “rat race,” free from competition and rugged individualism. I am no longer a proud competitor, struggling for perfection. Now I can be a humble, loving human being. My persistent, Pelagian labors to save myself have all ended in frustration and failure.

So I let go – I let God – “whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.”

I am free at last to make the long-delayed journey into my inner self to the God who is the ground of my being. In him “we live and move and have our being.”

I realize now, as Augustine realized years ago, “Late have I known Thee; late have I loved Thee. All these years I have been looking for You outside, and all the while you were inside me.”

I realize now that joy is the most infallible sign of the awareness of this intimate presence of God. The awareness of this intimate presence of God also enables me to exchange the apostolate of doing for the apostolate of being.

We always think of the apostolate as “going and doing.” But the apostolate of “being” is the first, the last and always the most effective apostolate. Just as Jesus is the medium and the message, so also am I.

The only Gospel that some will read is the Gospel according to me. St. Francis of Assisi said, “I am constantly preaching the Gospel. Sometimes I use words.” Others have said, “Don’t tell me what Jesus can do for me; show me what Jesus has done for you.” And, “If you want us to believe in your Redeemer, look a little more redeemed. You don’t look redeemed to me.”

Gifts are the language of love, the more one loves, the more one gives. Never has this language of gift-giving been spoken to me as God has spoken it to me. If God would not give me one gift more, I should be grateful for what he has already given me.

But the best gift is yet to come. God will continue to look over me with his divine Providence and then, at the end of my life, he will give me the greatest gift of all – the gift of the Giver to be known, loved and possessed forever.

It is also a time to witness to the fact that in the midst of time and change there is someone who is timeless and does not change. “Jesus Christ – the way, the truth and the life, yesterday, today and the same forever.”

I do not know what tomorrow holds, but I know who holds tomorrow. And I have discovered, much to my surprise, that our Lord really does save the very best wine for last!

Jesuit Father Rodney Kissinger, a native of New Orleans, is 102 years old. He is the oldest priest in the state of Louisiana, having been born on June 14, 1915. He currently resides at the Jesuit retirement community in Grand Coteau in the Diocese of Lafayette. As a Jesuit, he has served as an assistant principal, retreat director, parochial vicar, pastor and writer. Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (AMDG) – To the Greater Glory of God.

Click here to view the entire special supplement, “2017 Louisiana Priests’ Convention: Priest, Prophet, King.”

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