Archive for April, 2020

God Is There 4-26-2020

Sunday, April 26th, 2020

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 4-19-2020

Sunday, April 19th, 2020

A few years 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 4-12-2020

Sunday, April 12th, 2020

In one family, it is a Good Friday. A job has been lost, a career
derailed. A serious illness has been diagnosed. A once-loving
relationship has unraveled. But the other members of the family put
aside their own lives and come together at the foot of their loved one’s
cross. Their love moves whatever mountain necessary, changes the
course of whatever river is in their way. Together, Mom and Dad and
Sister and Brother, Step Parent, Single Parent, and Grandparent bear
one another’s crosses to bring hope, healing, forgiveness — and
resurrection — to every aspect of their life together as a family. The
love of our families can transform tragic and desperate Good Fridays
into Easter hope.
In this classroom, it is a Good Friday. The numbers and diagrams
in the algebra text are a maze to the student. She is lost and frustrated
and discouraged and wants to quit. A tired, overworked teacher just
wants to go home after a long week; but, seeing her student’s
frustration, she takes off her coat, puts down her pile of books and papers, and patiently walks through the problems with the befuddled
student. After a lot of hard work and patience, the “lights come on.” A
teacher’s selfless caring and generous gift of time transform this
student’s Good Friday into Easter light.
At corporate, it is Good Friday. A single mother has lost all of her
vacation and leave time to care for her seriously ill child. She is about
to lose her job – and the important medical benefits critical to her
family’s survival. Her co-workers devise a plan to pool some of their
vacation time and cover her responsibilities so that she can keep her job
and benefits while caring for her son. A Good Friday of desperation is
transformed into an Easter of possibility.
If we are honest, all of us sometimes find ourselves stuck in a
Good Friday world – our problems batter us, overwhelm us, strain our
ability to cope and make it all work. Our Alleluias are tempered by
reality; we approach this Easter Day with “Christ is risen, BUT…” But
in raising his son from the dead, God affirms the Good news of his
Christ: that good can conquer evil, that love can transform hatred, that light can shatter the darkness. We need to remember and remember it well, the story of Jesus whether told in the Bible or on a movie screen
does not end in the cold hopelessness of the cross but reaches ultimate
fulfillment in the Resurrection. Easter calls us to embrace the Risen
One’s compassion and openness of heart and spirit, enabling us to
transform the Good Fridays of our lives into Easter mornings.
This Easter morning I close with a challenge for all of us!
Some years ago, I was in Rome on Palm Sunday with the youth
from our Diocese for World Youth Day. We all had the opportunity to
hear Mother Theresa of Calcutta speak.
I remember well what she said:
“Death has not put a stop to the mission of Jesus. His mission is to
be carried on through us. Living witnesses of his presence.” The
challenge, to be Easter People — not just today, but everyday. People
whose lives not just their mouths (in church) radiate (not perfectly but
as best we can) the hope — the joy – the presence of Jesus risen and
alive – right here — right now.
Let us stand and re commit ourselves to Being Easter People everyday!