Archive for June, 2016

The Man Who Built His House Upon the Rock: Father Ron Shirley by Deacon Patrick Conway 6-26-2016

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

I want to tell you about a man who built his house upon the Rock that is Jesus Christ. Not just his house, but many other people’s houses as well, and God’s own house, the Church.

As a boy growing up in Los Banos, California, Father Ron would ride his bike to weekday mass early in the morning before school to serve at the altar. He was building his house upon the Rock that is Jesus Christ.

Building upon that strong foundation, Fr. Ron entered the seminary as a youth. Through high school, college, graduate school, through all the ups and downs and imperfections that are part of life, he continued to have faith in Jesus Christ, and he continued to build his house upon the Rock that is Jesus Christ.

When it came for ordination, he knew that this was the real game-changer. If he accepted it, he would be a priest forever, with all the tremendous sacrifices and blessings, both known and unknown, that it would bring. This was the point of no-turning-back. He chose to put his life in God’s hands, and he continued to build his house upon the Rock that is Jesus Christ.

Life as a young priest in an aging religious order that did not always appreciate his youthful enthusiasm brought many challenges, challenges that sometimes might have made him wonder if he could make it, but one day at a time, one challenge at a time, he turned to God and continued to build his house upon the Rock that is Jesus Christ.

At this time he began his ministry with youth, teaching and coaching high school football, and his many years of life in Christ began to bear wonderful fruit. As a coach he was a priest, and his pulpit was the practice field and game sideline, and teenage boys learned from him not only how to be successful in football, but how to be successful in life, how to build their lives upon the Rock. And as a priest he was a coach, and his field was pulpit and parish, and day by day he taught parishioners, through word and example, how to build their lives upon the Rock that is Jesus Christ.

In God’s own time and in God’s own way, Fr. Ron became a pastor for our diocese, and the fruit of his life in Christ began to multiply abundantly. For the past 33 years, pastoring five parishes, he has practiced and preached the top 10 fundamentals of following Jesus Christ:
1. The Ministry of Presence. Show up! Early! Fr. Ron understands the importance of connectedness, and he practices it each weekend at the front door of the church, welcoming, learning names, teasing (he’s even been known to splash holy water on sleepy-eyed people!), listening to the joys and sorrow of all who enter. And he continues his ministry of presence with cheerful greetings, thoughtful cards, phone calls and home visits. He is a true priest in that he is a companion – one who breaks bread with others to connect with them and with God.
2. Give. Give generously. Give sacrificially. Give to bring others hope, healing, and joy. Give gladly, and God will give us more and more.
3. Say “Thank you!” Say it often. Notice the things, even the little things, that people do, and thank them. Practice the “attitude of gratitude” every day and you will be happier, and so will the people around you.
4. Respond to human suffering with compassion and care. Be the first to reach out to the poor, the distressed, the frightened, the lost, the sinful, the grieving. Find practical ways to help them.
5. Open your heart to the healing mercy of God. God always forgives us, and we can always forgive others, and forgive ourselves. Always be kind and merciful, because God is kind and merciful. This is the way to true freedom and joy.
6. Let the children – and youth – come to Jesus. And if they don’t come, reach out to them and invite them. Let them know you care and that they are important in the Church and important to God.
7. Hand off the ball! After some good advice and planning, let others take the lead and score a touchdown and have the spotlight.
8. Life isn’t perfect and neither are we. We seek progress, not perfection. Holy Communion is not a reward for being perfect, but food for the journey of life. What matters is that we love God, others and ourselves as we go.
9. Play like a champion. Fr. Ron has taught us that there are two kinds of champions: those who never lose, and those who never give up, and that true victory lies in the latter. Fr. Ron has suffered many physical and personal setbacks over the years, but he always gets up like a champion, leading us to victory in Christ.
10. It’s all about Jesus Christ, and the Church should be all about Jesus Christ, not about customs and traditions, rules and regulations. If those things bring us closer to Christ, then they’re good. If they distract us and turn us into mean-spirited, judgmental Pharisees, they’re bad. Our relationship with Jesus Christ is what will get us through all the challenges of life.

As Fr. Ron has lived and coached others to live these fundamentals of discipleship in each of the parishes he has pastored, he has left them better off spiritually and materially because he and his parishioners have built the house of God upon the Rock that is Jesus Christ.

Father Ron, we thank you for all you have done each day to help us to build our lives and this parish upon the Rock, the Rock that is Jesus Christ.

LAST SUNDAY AT RESURRECTION CHURCH 6-26-2016

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

Once upon a time there was a safe dull land where nothing ever changed, or where things changed so slowly everybody called it progress. There weren’t many hard decisions in this land. Patterns to follow in every situation were pretty well set up. In this land everybody agreed on what was right and what was wrong. It was right to work hard and be a good trusting citizen. It was wrong to go off on weird tangents. In this land God was pretty cut and dry. God seemed to have lost the knack of surprising, un-nerving and delighting people.
Then it happened. Nobody knows what made it happen in that safe dull land where nothing ever changed, things started changing like crazy. Everything had been so carefully nailed down before and now suddenly things sprung loose and popped out. People began to doubt the validity of the safe patterns and conventions. Even that venerable structure, the Church, began fumbling and reaching and searching for new words and different gestures. The land where nothing ever changed was shaken loose from its rut by mighty forces of history.
Some people were panic stricken. They felt queasy and seasick from all the motion and commotion. It was all the work of the devil or the forces of corruption gnawing at the heart of the country. Others, though shaken up by all the changes, felt there was some hidden meaning that God had a hand in it, and that perhaps the wild, turbulent motion taking place within and without, was not chaos, but the beginning of a wonderful, mysterious dance.
I believe the dance goes on in our Parish. I pray that you will continue to dance as the church of Resurrection.
I would like to leave you with these thoughts.
Dance with a sense of humor. Have you seen someone out on the dance floor dead serious, tense, scared half to death they’ll make a mistake? They end up not enjoying themselves and they end up not really dancing. When you dance, go in prepared to relax and laugh at yourself. Go in with the conviction that if you try some really unique step and get your feet going in some creative new directions you are bound to make a fool out of yourself at least for a few times. That’s ok! It’s much more important to dance, to fall, to get up and dance again than to sit off in a chair sulking, always dance less.
Dance with others. This may seem like a silly requirement but if you think back to when you first learned how to dance, I bet you’ll find you learned alone. I learned how to dance by moving around in front of the hall mirror and trying to look sexy. Later I graduated to dancing with cousins and then, God help me with a girl. But even the first times I was dancing with her, I was really dancing alone. I was too wound up worried about how I looked and how I was doing to notice the other dancer. To dance by yourself is all right for starters, but one sign of maturity is when you start noticing that other people have their dances to do as well, and that some of their dances are really great. A sign of deeper maturity is when you try to coordinate your dance with someone else’s through deep friendship or in a lifelong dance of marriage. Two people can make a better dance than one, a whole community dancing can be called a Church where God dwells.
Third and last. Dance with imagination. Don’t feel like you have to keep to all the safe old steps. Every once in a while follow some of your own instincts and improvise a little. This world has a lot of new dances it needs to learn. We need to learn a dance that the rich and the poor can enjoy together. We need to find a dance that different cultures can do without tearing each other to pieces. We need to find dances with more compassion and joy and reconciliation built in them. I have no doubt that some of you have the dances this world needs.
In closing, I have been greatly blessed by the dance we have shared the past 12 years. There have been many happy, sad, joyous, and tragic twists, but I have felt your love and support through it all. In our dance together, I have stepped on some people’s toes, for this I apologize. But, I do not apologize for the new doors that have been opened and the fresh creative air that we have breathed together. I have always tried to make God the foundation and the main focus of our journey. I truly believe that God’s Spirit is leading and guiding us.
Please continue to dance with your new Parochial Administrator, Fr Romeo Evangelista, he is a wonderful person. He is excited about coming here. Let him teach you a few new dances.
Many thanks to my family and my fellow staff members. Thank you, the generous people who make this parish alive and growing. A special thanks to the many young people I have met in our parish. Our world and our Church needs your creative, energetic and crazy dances, may you always feel welcome here.
Finally, all of you please remember your main partner, God loves you, no matter what, and challenges you to be a living, breathing sign in this world that God is alive and well.
Wherever we go, may we continue to:
Dance with a sense of humor.
Dance with others.
Dance with imagination.
Dance with the loving and compassionate arms of God wrapped securely around us.

THANK YOU.

WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM? 6-19-2016

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

Sometimes you have to struggle with a scripture to get something out of it. When I first read today’s Gospel early this week, to start thinking about a homily, I drew an absolute blank. Nothing came. That says more about me than it does about the scripture. I finally decided it might help to focus in on just one part of it. So I zeroed in on the part where Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” All of a sudden, three really strong responses came to me from that part of the Gospel.
First, I was really touched. The passage really shows the humanness of Jesus. After all, it’s the most human thing in the world to wonder what people think of you. Psychologists say that when you walk into a group, any group—a club, a meeting, a class, a parish—the foremost question in your heart is “Will this group accept me?” And of course Jesus, if he really is a human being, had a desire to be appreciated, to be liked and respected. And so he asked, out loud, to his friends, a sort of sensitive question that maybe you’ve often felt like asking your friends, “What do you really think of me?” “Who do you say that I am?”
I was touched by how very human Jesus is, and second, I was disappointed. I was disappointed that he had to ask. I mean, he’d lived for months and months on the closest possible terms with these people and he had to ask, “Well, do you like me?” “What do you think of me”? “Am I O.K.?” I’m disappointed that the apostles were so stingy with feedback, so unexpressive, so uncommunicative, that Jesus finally had to just ask them.
My final response to the reading was, I was challenged. There are lots of people that I respect, or like, or admire, and there are some that I deeply, deeply love. How good have I been about letting them know? How have I mentioned to friends or family lately what I admire about them, or respect about them, or like about them.
Do you know where you can find the most beautiful compliments in the world? In a funeral parlor. Yes, in a funeral parlor, when it’s too late for the dead person to hear them. Children and relatives and friends of the deceased often gather, perhaps feel a little guilty about not expressing love more openly before and say the most wonderful things.
Why wait so long? God has been absolutely lavish in expressing love and respect, esteem and concern for us. In God’s name, let’s not be stingy in communicating love and respect and esteem and concern to each other.