Archive for April, 2017

God Is There 4-30-2017

Sunday, April 30th, 2017

Six-year-old Andrew Bateson came down with bacterial meningitis, an aggressive disease that almost cost the little boy his life. In order to save Andrew, doctors had to amputate his legs where the disease had destroyed his circulatory system. Andrew was devastated when he discovered what had happened to him; Andrew couldn’t understand why he couldn’t have his “old legs back”.
His mother, Rebecca, wasn’t doing much better. She tried to keep up a positive disposition for her son—but she wondered how Andrew would handle the next chapter.
And she felt betrayed—betrayed by God.
After months of agonizing rehabilitation with his new prosthetic legs, Andrew finally went home.
Then one night at supper, out of nowhere, Andrew said, “I saw God, Mommy. I was sleeping at the hospital. He put his arms out, and I thought he was going to give me a hug. But instead he just touched me on the shoulder”.
His mother steeled herself. “Did God say anything?”
“No, he was just….there”.
A chill ran down his mother’s spine. Rebecca writes: “[God] was just there. What did that mean? I looked at Andrew, wolfing down his dinner. For months I had seen a handicapped child, a damaged child, fighting as hard as he could, failing more often than succeeding in his rehab. Falling down, unable to master his new legs. Yet, unlike me, never turning bitter, never giving up. “I’m going to walk, I’m going to ride my bike”, he’d insist, “You just watch”.
And Rebecca realized: “Andrew came through this better that I have. He was moving on. I was stuck in my bitterness and sense of betrayal…Had God been there all along for me too, and I was just too angry to see? Was he there for me now? Lord, thank you for being with Andrew. Be with me now, too”.
In closing, remember this: The Risen Christ is here, in our midst, in the love of family and friends, in the care of doctors and nurses, in the support of pastors and ministers, in the wisdom of teachers and counselors. The disciples on the road to Emmaus finally realize his presence in the breaking of bread; Rebecca finally grasps God’s presence in the unshakable, determined faith of her little boy. Every one of us has traveled the road the two disciples walked on Easter night; many of us have made the journey that Andrew and his mom and dad traveled. It is the road of deep disappointment, sadness, despair, anger. But God assures us, in his Easter promise, that along those roads he will make himself known to us. If our eyes are open, we will meet him in his Christ: in the compassion and generosity of others, in the breaking of bread and the healing touch of the sacraments, in the grace and wisdom of his Spirit in our midst. May our hearts and consciences always be open to behold the presence of Christ, our guest and companion along the many roads we walk to our own Emmauses.
His mother asked, “Did God say anything?” Andrew answered, “No….He was just there”!

God’s Mercy 4-23-2017

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

Last year Pope Francis called a wonderful jubilee of mercy. I was so excited when he did this and I really wanted to make it a special year for myself and the people of the parish. What I had to do first, I had to get a better understanding of what is mercy, exactly. To some people’s modern ears it sounds like weak surrender or cheap forgiveness or even worse, the self-satisfied flinging of a coin to a homeless person. I did not want to let Pope Francis down so I began my search to understand mercy better.
As I was looking I came across a definition of mercy by a Jesuit priest name Fr. James F. Keenan. “Mercy” he says is the willingness to enter into the chaos of another. This definition unlocked my imagination, and I was immediately flooded with images and stories.
Mercy is the Holy Child Jesus Church community in Queens. When a desperate mother left her newborn son in the church’s manger scene in late November, multiple parish families stepped forward to adopt him. “I think it’s beautiful,” Fr. Christopher Heanue, the church administrator, said. “A church is a home for those in need, and she felt, in this stable – a place where Jesus will find his home – a home for her child.” Parishioners have two name suggestions for the baby: John, because he came before Jesus to prepare the way; and Emanuel, which means “God is with us.”
Mercy is the Intergenerational Learning Center at Providence Mount St. Vincent in Seattle – a preschool inside a nursing home. Through planned and spontaneous activities, the kids and the seniors interact throughout the day, sharing in art projects, exercise, story time, and more. Both the youngsters and the residents have a lot to offer one another and a lot to receive.
Mercy is a mother who sleeps on the floor of her three year-old son’s room at 2:00am because he thinks there are monsters in there.
Mercy is Oakland Athletics pitcher Sean Doolittle and his girlfriend Eireann Dolan, who partnered with Chicago city government officials to organize Thanksgiving dinner for the city’s 17 families of Syrian refugees last week. And mercy is the nonprofit organizations – many of them Catholic – that have proclaimed “Refugees welcome” in states were elected officials have threatened to close their doors.
Mercy is when a person returns to the Sacrament of Reconciliation after decades, nervous as can be and embarrassed to have forgotten the act of contrition, and the confessor responds with warmth, gentleness, and bit of good humor.
Mercy is the hashtag #PorteOuverte, or “Open Door,” that sores of Parisians used on the night of the terror attacks there to signal that they would open their homes to anyone who needed shelter.
Mercy is Rosa’s Fresh Pizza in Philadelphia, where you can spend an extra dollar to have a post-it put up on the wall. Homeless members of the community are then welcome to come in to the shop and trade in a post-it for a slice.
Mercy is the Gospel stories of the prodigal son, the woman caught in adultery, Matthew the unscrupulous tax collector, and Peter the denier. The forgiveness they receive does not condone them in their selfishness. They are not condoned, but redeemed.
These images of mercy share some things in common. Each example features the element of “willingness” that Keenan emphasizes. Instead of avoiding or dismissing the chaos of another, these practitioners of mercy move toward the chaos with creativity and boldness. They make me wonder, “If we Catholics were 10 times bolder and more creative in our practice of mercy than we are right now, how might things be different?” Well, we’d probably have preschools in all our nursing homes and refugees at all our family parties, for starters.
I close, Mercy the willingness to enter the chaos of another human being. Thank you God for the mercy you show all of us.

Easter People 4-16-2017

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

I came across an article about a parish in Lafayette section of Jersey City. They were involved in an unusual Good Friday procession. The parish wanted to connect the sufferings of Christ to the sufferings of their neighborhood. Several of the 14 stations in the outdoor procession were at the homes in the neighborhood where muggings, fires, murders, had taken place over the last year.

A. The station where Simon helps Jesus carry his cross took place at the home of a teenage boy who risked his life to help a man who been mugged and left for dead.

B. The 12th station marking the death of Jesus, was held in the front of the house of Francis McMahon, an 84 year old woman who was murdered in her own home 3 weeks before Good Friday.
I thought to myself what a creative and powerful way to link together the suffering, pain and death of Jesus with the suffering, pain and death of the world you and I live in today.