With very few exceptions, I don’t like movies. I get bored or annoyed or offended by them, and then I fall asleep. One exception is Young Frankenstein. Among my most favorite of my many favorite lines in that film is the classic quip from Igor: “Wait Master! It might be dangerous. . . . You go first.”
I think we’ve all experienced that moment before, when we are metaphorically the first in line to jump out of the airplane and we’d rather someone else go first just to get things started. The awkward moment may have occurred atop a diving board or behind a podium or in the on-deck circle. Igor captures well the sentiment we have all shared at some point, wherever we might have been: the feeling of desperation as we scramble for a much-needed sense of security.
This strikes me not only as a natural reaction, but also as a very supernatural notion. Is it not good for us to have fellowship with those around us, encouraging us onward? Jesus, Himself, says: “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to Myself so that where I am, you also may be. Where I am going, you know the way” (John 14:3-4). Jesus, here, volunteers to be the first one to jump, the opening speaker, and the lead-off batter. In a sense, He makes it easy for us. All we have to do is follow.
I remember having this feeling in the years before I was ordained a deacon. I knew the men in the classes ahead of me well, and I recall experiencing a sense of relief as I watched my friends be ordained. “If they can lay down their lives for Christ and the Church, so can I.”
The experience reversed itself a bit this past weekend. I’ve been a priest for nearly a year, and I had the joy on Saturday of concelebrating the ordination Mass of three more friends to the diaconate. Again, I must confess to experiencing a sense of profound relief. “I’m not alone; there are people coming after me!”
The Lord surely must have felt that way. At the outset of His ministry, He had said to Simon & Andrew, “Come, follow Me” (Mark 1:17). When they went out on Pentecost proclaiming the Kingdom and when “thousands were added to their number” (Acts 2:41), do you not think Jesus would have been exuberant: “I’m not alone; there are people coming after me!”
The experience of these years of friends’ ordinations has taught me something profound about Communion. It is good to have others go before us; and it is good to have others follow behind us. We are never alone. God is really with us. Whether things are dangerous or not, He always goes before us, like the pillar of fire of old.
This kind of Communion serves magnificently to “confirm the brethren” (Luke 22:32). It draws us out of our individualism and situates us in the context of the mystical Body of Christ. This inspires me to “tell the next generation that such is our God, our God forever and always; it is He Who leads us” (Psalm 48:14)!