Bethany House 6-20-2021

June 18th, 2021

A parishioner, in her will, left her small house to the parish. The
property was adjacent to the church property.
The pastor and the parish council began to look at possibilities for
the property. A number of options were suggested: a religious education
center; a residence for the pastor, enabling the parish to sell the big, two-
thirds empty house he now lived in; tearing down the house to create a
memorial park or expand the church parking lot.
Then a group of the town’s residents asked to meet with the
council. They proposed that the house be used as a temporary shelter for
battered women, a safe place where women and their children could
escape an abusive husband and begin the process of rebuilding their
lives. The council listened politely and empathetically. Then the “buts”
started… It is important work, but the house would be empty most of
the time. Do we want to get involved in these family situations? Can we really make a difference here? What about the liability, the
safety of parishioners who work on this, potential damage to the
property?
A member of the parish council said nothing during the barrage of
questions and concerns. Finally, she asked to speak. She told her own
story of being in an abusive relationship years before and that a house
like this and the group who maintained it had saved her life and her
daughter’s. She had never spoken about it before but felt she needed to
speak up now. This is more important than you know, she said quietly.
So, the little house became Bethany House, named after the home
of Martha and Mary and Lazarus, the friends of Jesus with whom he
often stayed. Members of the parish stepped forward to fix up the house
and furnish it. And it has been a safe place for families battered by the
winds of abuse and hardship.
In a storm of doubt and skepticism, the “sleeping” Jesus awakens
in the courage of a woman whose powerful story leads her parish to take
on a challenging but important ministry in their community.
We do not realize that the Gospel Jesus “sleeps” within our own “boats” he “awakens” during the most difficult and demanding storms we
encounter, enabling us to do what is right and just. Within each of us is
the grace of the “awakened” Jesus in today’s Gospel: the wisdom, the
patience, the courage to discern the presence of God amid the storms of
tension, fear, anxiety, and the injustice we experience. As Frederick
Buechner writes in his book Secrets of the Dark: “Christ sleeps in the
deepest selves of all of us, and whatever we do in whatever time we
have left, wherever we go, may we in whatever way we can call on
him as the fishermen did in their boat to come awake within us and
to give us courage, to give us hope, to show us, each one, our way.
May he be with us especially when the winds go mad and the waves
run wild, as they will for all of us before we’re done, so that even in
their midst we may find peace, find Him.”

Mustard Seed Faith 6-13-2021

June 11th, 2021

Ben Durskin is nine years old. For almost four years, he has been
treated for acute lympho | blastic leukemia. During a punishing protocol
of chemotherapy, he passed the time with his Game Boy and Play
Station. Last summer, Ben came up with his own videogame, designed
especially for kids with cancer. In Ben’s Game, a boy (modeled after
Ben) zooms around a screen on a skateboard, blasting cancer cells in
order to collect “shields” that protect against the usual side effect of
chemo: fever, chicken pox, colds, vomiting, hair loss. A player can’t
lose – “you just keep fighting,” explains Ben.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation and software engineer Eric
Johnston of LucasFilms worked with Ben to create the game. Ben’s
Game has won raves from the 200,000 children who have found the
game, available free on line. Not only is the game fun but children learn
about the “monsters” attacking their bodies and how they can best beat
them.
For eight years, 15-year-old Sasha Bowers and her family were homeless. Sasha, her little sister and her mother spent most nights in Columbus, Ohio, shelter, fighting hunger and bugs and kept awake by
snores and screaming. Two years ago, Sasha’s mom landed a job with a
cleaning company and the family was able to move into an apartment.
But Sasha hasn’t forgotten where she came from. She’s been the
driving force behind a summer day-camp program for 175 homeless kids
in Columbus. “When I was in shelters, there were no safe places to
play,” Sasha explains. “I wanted to create a place that was fun, where
kids could stay out of trouble while parents find jobs and housing.”
When Ryan Hreljac was in the first grade, he was shocked to learn
about African children having to walk five miles to get a bucket of clean
water. Ryan did odd jobs around the house and for neighbors for four
months to raise $70, the cost of digging a well.
That was six years ago. Since then the Canadian teen’s
foundation, Ryan’s Well, has raised $750,000 to build wells in seven
African nations. Relief and development agencies in Canada say of
Ryan: “He’s such a regular kid – that’s what makes him so powerful…
He believes everyone should have water, and he’s not going to stop until they do.” These remarkable young people, Ben, Sasha, and Ryan possess the
faith of the mustard seed: they have taken their own “Mustard seeds” –
seeds of creativity, empathy and dedication – and have done the hard
work of planting and nurturing those seeds until each one has realized an
enduring and rooted harvest of hope, of compassion, of life itself. Christ
calls us to embrace “mustard seed” faith – to believe that even the
slightest act of goodness, done in faith and trust in God’s presence, has
meaning in the reign of God. The mustard seed challenges us to grab
hold of the opportunities we have for planting and reaping a harvest of
justice, compassion and reconciliation in our own piece of the earth.
Ben, Sasha and Ryan – remarkable young people – they planted
their tiny mustard seed, worked hard, and God did the rest.
You, you, you, all of you, remarkable people. Plant your tiny
mustard seeds wherever you find yourself in life, work hard and let God
do the rest. Mustard seed faith – to believe that even the smallest act of
goodness, kindness, done in faith and trust in God’s power, can have an unbelievable effect on many, many people. Please, don’t sell yourself
short – don’t sell the power of God short!

Become What You Receive 6-6-2021

June 5th, 2021

In the November 1998 issue of Food & Wine magazine, writer
Gerri Hirshey tells the story of her grandmother’s “special ministry” to
her family:
“As a child, I often watched my tiny Italian grandmother,
Geraldine, board a city bus cradling a mason jar of hot minestrone. This
meant that someone – Uncle Carmine, Aunt Antoinette – was down. It
didn’t matter whether they were felled by the flu, a feisty gallbladder or
the evil eye. Having heard the alarm, Nonnie (our name for grandma)
tied on an apron and started banging soup pots.
“For nearly half a century, Nonnie was the Designated Soup
Carrier (DSC) for a sprawling Neapolitan network of family and friends
in Stamford, CT. Somewhere between a field medic and a shrink, a
DSC is found in many cultures and is usually female. In the midst of
crisis, her prescriptives are basic and sustaining: Stop a minute. Taste
this. Life is good.” Nonnie’s daughter Rose – Gerri’s mother – eventually became the
DSC for her brothers and sisters and their families; now, granddaughter
Gerri has assumed the duties of DSC for her generation. The Designated
Soup Carrier’s in Gerri Hirshey’s family model Jesus’ vision for the
Sacrament of the Eucharist. Nourished and sustained by the food we
have received, we become nourishment and sustenance for others. Out
of love, Christ gives us himself in bread and asks us to become, in our
love, bread for others – Designated Christ Carriers (DCC).
Here are several examples:
A. He was old, tired, and sweaty, pushing his homemade cart;
stopping now and then to poke around somebody’s garbage. I
wanted to tell him about Eucharist, but the look in his eyes, the
despair in his face, told me to forget it, so, I smiled and I said
“Hi” and I gave him Eucharist.
B. She lived alone, her husband dead, her family gone, as she
talked at you – not to you, words, endless words. So I listened
and gave her Eucharist. C. He sat across my desk – very nervous. He finally said it, “I
have AIDS” – by God’s grace, I did not say, how did you get
AIDS?” – I said “How can I help?” I gave him Eucharist.
I close:
As you, as we – say our Amen today at communion time – let us
remember and take to heart these words – “We receive Eucharist – to
become Eucharist for others. Let us remember and take to heart this
challenge – the work of proclaiming God’s reconciling love belongs to
every one of us, whether we collect taxes, teach math, manage a Fortune
500 company or shine shoes for a living – may we possess the greatness
of spirit and generosity of heart to be ministers of the Gospel –
Designated Christ Carriers, in whatever place we are in, whatever time
God has given us. Amen. “We receive Eucharist – to become Eucharist
for others.”