If You Love Enough 1-20-2019

January 20th, 2019

I had the privilege to be part of some weekends called Engaged Encounters. On these weekends two married couples would share a great deal about their married life with about thirty engaged couples. I listened and learned a lot from these married couples. I was impressed with how hard they worked at staying married.
On this weekend when we read about the marriage feast at Cana, I would like to share with you two brief stories about two married couples that also really touched me.
She fought bravely and valiantly, he always at her side. But after eight years, cancer took her life. After the funeral, he was cleaning out the drawer near her bed and found a piece of paper she had written. It was a sort of love note. It looked a little like a schoolgirl’s daydream note about the boy in the next row. Except that this note was written by the mother of seven children, a woman who had been battling for her life until the end. It was also a wonderful prescription for holding a marriage together. This is how her note to her husband began. Loved. Cared. Worried. Helped me when I was sick. Forgave me a lot of things. Stood by me. Always complimentary. Provided everything I ever needed. Warmth. Humor. Kindness. Thoughtfulness. Always there when I needed you. And the last thing she wrote sums up all the other. Good friend. He folded the paper and placed it in his wallet. Sometime later he was talking to a friend about her. He showed him the paper. The friend, a much younger man, was deeply moved by the note. The friend asked, “How do you stick by someone through 38 years of marriage, let alone the sickness too?” “How do I know I’d have what it takes to stand by a wife if she got sick?” And he replied simply and quietly. “You will.” “If you love enough, you will.”
A strong self-reliant ranch owner, who did not very often express his emotions outwardly, had to rush his wife to the hospital. A ruptured appendix. The ensuing operation was successful, but the woman’s’ condition deteriorated. Despite the blood transfusions and intensive care, she continued to lose strength. The doctors were puzzled because by all medical standards she should have been recovering. They finally were convinced of the reason for her deterioration. She was not trying to get well. The surgeon, an old family friend, went to her and said. “I would think you would want to be strong for John.” She replied weakly. “John is so strong he doesn’t need anybody.” When the doctor told the husband what she had said, he immediately went into his wife’s room, took her hand in his and said. “You’ve got to get well!” Without opening her eyes, she asked, “Why?” He said, “because I need you.” The nurse who was monitoring the blood transfusion said she noticed an immediate change in the pulse beat and the blood pressure. Then the patient opened her eyes and said, “John, that’s the first time you ever said that to me.” Two weeks later she was home. The doctor commenting on the case said it wasn’t the blood transfusion, but what went with it that made the difference between life and death for that woman.
In closing, I would like to ask any married couple present here to stand. I would like to thank you for the hard work you put into your Sacrament of Marriage and I would like to offer you a special prayer of Blessing for you both. God, you have called woman and man to become “one flesh.” What a great sign of your love for us. Send your spirit, O God, upon those today who passionately proclaim their love for each other. May they always remember that the energy and power source of their relationship lies in fidelity and commitment to you. May they inspire all of us to pledge ourselves more deeply to our own promises, and our own vows to live in love. May these two lovers dance to the music of Christ. Amen.

God Within 1-6-2019

January 6th, 2019

True story:
The congregation was very proud of their beautiful church, which had stood proudly on the village common for generations.
But, one night just before Thanksgiving, a spark in the heating system ignited a fire that destroyed the New England clapboard structure. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the congregation was devastated.
As soon as the fire marshal gave the all-clear, the stunned pastor and parishioners combed the rubble to salvage the few things they could.
Then, interesting things began to happen.
A nearby church — a congregation that the displaced parish had little to do with before — offered them the use of their religious education building for services and meetings for as long as they needed it. Churches from nearby towns offered hymnals and other supplies; several churches took up a special collection for the congregation.
At the first service following the fire, the congregation, who were used to sitting in their “own” places at a comfortable distance from one another, found themselves sitting side-by-side on folding chairs. After the service, teams started to form to deal with insurance issues, organize temporary arrangements for religious education and parish programs, and to sketch out first plans to rebuild. The pastor tapped the expertise of everyone in the parish to help — and everyone readily signed on. Parishioners who knew one another only by name, who had, until then, exchanged pleasant but perfunctory hellos on Sunday, were now working together to rebuild not just their beautiful building but the community they had taken for granted.
And, in their grief and loss that first Sunday morning in their temporary quarters, they prayed and sang in a way few had ever experienced before.
In the new journey they had begun as a church, they had rediscovered the God within.

The Epiphany of the Lord is a story about seeking and finding the God within, the God in our midst. As the magi undertakes a long and arduous journey by the light of the mysterious star to find the newborn king (encountering, among other things, a murderous tyrant along the way), the suddenly churchless parish rediscovers, in their coming together to deal with the catastrophe, the Spirit of God in their midst. The Epiphany challenges us to slow down and check our own bearings on our life’s journey, to focus on the “star” we should follow to make our lives all that God has created them to be, to fix our lives on the constant, eternal values of peace, compassion, mercy, justice, forgiveness that are the unmistakable signs of God within our hearts and homes.

The Feast of the Holy Family 12-30-2018

December 31st, 2018

During his 1967 Super Bowl season with the Green Bay Packers, the great quarterback Bart Starr had a deal with his oldest son. For every perfect paper Bart Junior brought home from school, Bart Starr would give him ten cents – a pretty nifty sum of money for a kid back then.
In the course of the season, Starr had a particularly rough game against the (then) St. Louis Cardinals. Starr was discouraged and angry about his own performance. He returned home late that night, weary and battered, after a long plane ride. But his spirits lifted immediately when he found this note on his pillow:
Dear Dad, I thought you played a great game. Love, Bart.
And taped to the note were two dimes.
Within our families we experience the heights of joy and the depths of pain. Our belonging to a family means that each one of us – parent and child – reflects for the other the selfless, limitless and unconditional love of Christ, both in good times and (more importantly) in bad times. The Holy Family of Joseph, Mary and the child Jesus, in the suffering and tragedy they endured together, is a model for us and our own families as we confront the many tensions and crises that threaten the stability, peace and unity that are the joys of being a family.
I would like to leave you with this thought today; in the midst of all the wild and weird conflicts we may face in our families, God wants to be part of them. In the midst of the shouting matches, doors being slammed, people pouting and not speaking to each other, holding grudges, and in alcoholic or abusive situations, GOD THE HOLY IS THERE! God is not embarrassed to be there and God wants to help.
As we begin the year of 2019, I pray that as we face conflicts in our families, when we feel overwhelmed and everything seems impossible and we try to resolve our differences – that we will be humble and wise enough to seek help for ourselves. Especially, the comfort, the grace and the peace that God alone can offer our families.