July 13, 2020
Typically when we gather to celebrate Ketteler Day, we reflect upon our Founder’s tremendous energy, his exceptional oratory, and most especially his unwavering passion for justice. Certainly, all of that is his legacy to us. Even though his death was 143 years ago, his prophetic witness to making God’s providence visible through advocacy and service remains timely and challenging. But there are additional aspects of Ketteler’s spiritual heritage which may be particularly appropriate for us this year when we are challenged to make God’s Providence visible while staying home!
In this sacred space, we are singularly blessed to have the special gift of Bishop Ketteler’s prie dieu. When he was a student of theology, Willhelm Ketteler said that “A very well-used prie-dieu is of greater importance than several volumes of knowledge in the mind.” (August, 1841) Nine years later, on March 15, 1850, Pope Pius IX named Wilhelm a bishop. He was 39 years old, and had been a priest for only 6 years! The Pope said that the appointment was “to provide for Mainz, in the person of Baron Ketteler, a bishop after God’s own heart.” “After God’s own heart” what a stunning designation! But what does it mean?
These are the identical words attributed to only one biblical figure—and that is David. Twice, in the Scriptures, he’s identified “after God’s own heart.” The first time was, when as a youth, he was anointed by Samuel—and the second time, it is the newly converted Paul who puts these words in God’s mouth who declares—“I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after my own heart.” (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22).
The fact that these words are descriptive of David’s relationship to God may provide an insight into what it means to be a person after God’s own heart. We know that David ranks as one of the most significant figures in Salvation History. At the same time, he was a notoriously flawed individual. Nonetheless he was a vessel of God’s Providence for the Chosen people.
Clearly, being a person after God’s own heart is not achieved through one’s own merits. We can’t work for it. We can’t earn it. In fact, even one’s missteps don’t negate it or lessen it. It is God’s doing. It is gratuitous. It is grace.
Perhaps Ketteler sensed this truth and marked the realization when he chose to add his second baptismal name, Emmanuel, to his signature —coinciding with the occasion of his consecration as Bishop. From then on he became—Wilhelm Emmanuel, that is, Wilhelm “GOD With Us” or even , Wilhelm God’s own heart.
Now that is the gift and challenge for us during these days —to recognize, to celebrate that we —daughters of Wilhelm Emmanuel are also “after God’s own heart.”
That’s what we celebrate today—
That’s what we proclaim as we stand to renew our vows..,
Happy Ketteler Day!