17th Sunday “A” homily A TREASURE sought after

  1. 1 Kgs. 3:5-12; Rom. 8:28-30; Mt. 13:44-52 ’

We come back to the big parable chapter 13 of Matthew’s Gospel for a third Sunday-in-a-row. Today in it’s part it asks: What do you treasure? Or, really, Who do you treasure?  Is it God? Does your life show that to be true, or mostly true? Or does it point to something/someone else?

I will lead off with an example of my seeing someone practice this Scripture out.  A Catholic man in Midwest America lovingly and romantically treasured a local Catholic woman, here in Silver Spring.  They began a long distance relationship. She was settled in a great, unique job in DC, while he had a nice job out there, but one which could likewise be found here.  He treasured her and desired a marriage with her, so much so, that he moved here to her to help it work out.  She treasured him, too, but it involved much sacrifice on his part to make it happen.  It was liked the parables of Jesus–he was willing to give up much so to gain her.  I witnessed their wedding in 2005 and they are still happily married a dozen years now, as bright as a dozen-rose bouquet.

Their hidden treasure found is their relationship sewn and ‘ unearthed’ together.

Jesus gave parables about treasure seeking, such as in today’s Sunday one. People have been searching for hidden treasures for centuries, so He knows an appealing approach for His teachings. ‘Seek a treasure in Me,’ He says here.

One of the big treasure stories of the Americas comes from the 16th and 17th centuries, when arriving Europeans believed that somewhere in the New World there was a place of immense wealth known as “El Dorado.” Their searches for this treasure wasted countless lives. The origins of “El Dorado” lie deep in South America. And like all enduring legends, the tale of it contains some scraps of truth. When Spanish explorers reached South America, they heard stories about a tribe of natives high in the Andes Mountains in what is now Colombia. When a new chieftain rose to power, his rule began with a ceremony at Lake Guatavita. Accounts of the ceremony vary, but they consistently heard about how the new ruler was said to be covered with gold dust, and that gold and precious jewels were thrown into the lake to appease a god that lived underwater. The Spaniards started calling this golden chief “El Dorado,” meaning “the gilded one.” The ceremony of the gilded man supposedly ended in the late 15th century when El Dorado and his subjects were conquered by another tribe ( just prior to the Spaniards’ coming).  

The Spaniards and other Europeans had found gold among the natives along the continent’s northern coast, but they believed there had to be a place of very great wealth somewhere in the interior. The Spaniards didn’t find El Dorado, but they did find Lake Guatavita and tried to drain it in 1545. They lowered its level enough to find hundreds of pieces of gold along the lake’s edge. But the presumed fabulous treasure in the deeper water was beyond their reach.

Jesus is speaking a lesson of a treasure that IS within our reach.   It’s the Kingdom of God.   Matthew chapter 13 has Him telling many parables about it, as He relates stories of a treasure hidden in a field, and one underwater, and so forth.

It was not, and still is not today, surprising for Jesus to compare the soul’s search to such stories of people looking for treasure and/or finding hidden treasure.  People are frequently seeking a big find or big score.  I was in baseball’s Fenway Park on Friday, and, besides the ballgame, much interest lay in who’d win the 50/50 raffle in the park, to award its winner $15,000-$25,000 on a $5 ticket.  One lucky fan walked away with that treasure. It wasn’t me!

In ancient times, treasures weren’t raffles, lotteries, stocks and investments, or gambles, but in treasures found left in the earth or sunk in the sea.

Jesus teaches that humankind has a soul in our bodies which had been made to hold a treasure–an abiding link up of a sharing friendship with God. That’s THE treasure to seek out the most.  He taught how sin broke that friendship and it caused the loss of something far greater than gold, but of an eternal relationship of humanity with God. But it can be reclaimed!  Praise God that in Jesus it can!

God knows we’ve been seeking to fill that void and inner need and treasure for our heart and soul ever since.  Yet we’ve turned to idols and false pleasures and vain pursuits, rather than to seek Him.

Jesus used the parable account method to reach the seekers for the true answer and fulfillment of their most inner longings.  He used to describe the Kingdom of God, as hence:  “The kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that is hidden in a field that someone found.”

You and I walk now amid the fields of the Lord where the treasure of relationship with Him can be found, and other related treasures of the Kingdom-come life.  We don’t need to climb the Andes or hunt the deep Amazon or go far and wide to find it.

Jesus says “the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” and ” the Kingdom is within you ( who believe).”

Just to take it another notch or three…   with Matthew 13.  The lesson in this parable section is, first, that we all have it built within us to seek something great and special for our lives, for our souls cry for it.   Only a seeker will do the finding, and one who realizes that it is a search for something mostly hidden from natural sight.  You gotta play to win, or in our case, you gotta pray to win!

A second lesson of the parable is that the man found the precious thing, not so much by chance, but as in and through his day’s work. The man stumbled all unexpectedly upon it, but he did so when he was going about his daily business. So, Jesus tells His hearers that the Kingdom of God is to be found while doing the daily routine of our life with efficiency and diligence. ( It’s not like we have to go to the Andes to find it.) God will put it right in our pathway!  It can even be found in an everyday routine by someone who has a searching eye open for heavenly treasure. When Jesus called His disciples they were all engaged in their work. Peter was fishing with Andrew, when Jesus called them. Levi, aka Mathew,  was at the tax collection booth when he was called. Jesus saw all the 12 men at work, ( later apostles,) and picked them up to be his followers. In the saints stories, too, Mary Magdalene was getting the daily water supply at the well, working, when Jesus came by, and met and talked with her, to show her The Living Water.

It was the same with the saints. Francis of Assisi was with the group of crusaders when he was called to accept the new responsibility. He kind of stumbled upon his blessing. Francis Xavier was engaged in his daily routine when the call of Jesus came to him through Ignatius Loyola. Catherine Laboure was a boarding student in school, just stopping in the chapel for a quick prayer, when God sent her an apparition of Jesus’ Blessed Mother.  Isidore was a farm laborer near Madrid, Spain, when many marvelous spiritual happenings accompanied his field work. OK. I think you get that point.  The treasure can be found in everyday routine, so keep an eye open for it.

God will give the treasure of Himself to those who seek Him, rather than will the elusive El Dorado gold ever satisfy.

In closing, the more obvious application of the parables today is what I led off with– that it is a worthy thing to make any sacrifice necessary to reach the treasure you want, especially if it is a holy love sought after.   The conviction to give up the lesser to gain the greater is worth it, when God is in the desire.

He is the treasure offered back to us.

Are you pursuing the right treasure?       

 

17th Sunday A Another homily

On this 17th Sunday of ordinary time, the Church reminds us that the greatest of all treasures is the Kingdom of God. In his love, God himself has chosen us, and prepared it for us before time. So, the holy mother church encourages us to pray for wisdom as Solomon did, to enable us discern the true value and mysteries of God’s kingdom.

Today’s first reading began in a very interesting way. If you were Solomon what would you ask for? Some of us would, ask for more cars, houses, shoes, foods, money, power, children and much more! On the contrary, Solomon asked for wisdom for the benefit of both his kingdom and God’s kingdom. He begged God to give him understanding: “Give your servant a heart to understand how to discern between good and evil.”

An understanding heart is God’s gift (Prov 2:6). We need it every day, and in all aspects of our life (family, work, studies, and in all life’s decisions) in order to succeed. So, the Apostle James encourages us: “If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously…and it will be given to you (Jas 1:5). Wisdom was given to Solomon, because he asked for it. However, God expects us to ask wisely, reasonably and not selfishly.

In the second reading, Paul reminds us that: “In everything, God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” That is, that God is leading us through the storms of life towards our home, and towards his kingdom. Carefully, He orders all the events of our lives in order to lead us there. This is what we call providence. Simply put, that God’s powerful hand is active in all the circumstances of our lives.

“Everything” is utterly inclusive and comprehensive. It has no qualifications or limits. Therefore, neither this verse nor its context allows for restrictions or conditions. “All things” is inclusive in the fullest possible sense. It includes your present trouble, your heavy heart, your poverty, your richness, joblessness, your success and failure, your weakness and strength, as well as your sickness and health. Indeed, “everything” and nothing is left out!

Nothing exists or occurs in heaven or on earth without the knowledge of God. By saying that “all things work together for us, Paul tries to reassure us that there is no discord in God’s providence. This is especially, for those who through their faith in Christ have wisely become God’s friends. He also assures us that, nothing can ultimately work against those whom God has chosen and predestined for his Kingdom. Those, who walk faithfully with him.

Today’s gospel is a continuation of Jesus’ use of parables to teach us about the Kingdom of God. Therefore, it is a call to be as wise as Solomon. Without wisdom, we can neither understand the parables of Christ, nor seek the kingdom of God. Today’s good news is also a call to value what is most precious to us, and for which God has chosen us.

Today’s parables are intended to instruct us to prefer the kingdom of heaven to this world, and to ensure that nothing prevents us from entering into it. Through these parables, Christ reminds us of the excellence and beauty of eternal life. The kingdom of God is indeed a treasure hidden from the wise of this world.

Only those who are wise according to God’s standard look for it, and find it. To find it, we must first value it, and when we have found it, we must hide it in our hearts. Therefore, let us ask God for understanding and wisdom as Solomon did, so that we may be wise enough to discern what is good for us, and to make God’s kingdom our priority.

Peace be with you all!

Maranatha!

Things overheard at The Dollar Store

It is a packing day for me, to get things off shelves or out of drawers, and into boxes or containers for moving.    I am going a bit wacky.   Fortunately I have some nice cd’s to play to motivate me, such as “Traveling Light” by various Christian artists.   This is reminding me to thin down my stuff as I pack, for the trash or a charity give-a-way.

My sense of humor is needed, too.   I recalled a little routine I wrote in my head about a trip to the local dollar store.   It was of the funny things you could overhear there.

Things Overheard at The Dollar Store

How much is this item?

Is this jewelry real?

Do you have any special sales today–like 50% off?

Do these slippers come in any other colors than these ones in dirty mustard yellow or diluted pink carnation?

May I pay for these two items in all pennies?

Is this thing really only just a dollar?

How old do you think this Zebra cake is?  Do you sell Moon Pies here, too?

Can I pay for this American Bald Eagle pot holder by check?

Do you carry any nice perfume or cologne in this store?

Where is the electronics section?

Where is the clothing section?

How much does this glassware cost?

Do you take American Express or travelers checks here?

WalMart has a better selection than here.

What’s the difference between Family Dollar, The Dollar Store, Dollar Hero, Just A Dollar, The Dollar Tree, and the Dollar General?

How much is this can of deluxe festive chili?

Homily. 15th Sunday.

Homily. 15th Sunday. by Fr. John Barry    Web version

God is a sower but will we let Him sew His will in us? Or–will we settle for living for much less in a so-so life?  Or–will it be worse?! (Hope not!)

The Choices:   Open up so very much.   Or, be so-so, either shallow or worldly. Or, be apart from God, trampled on the path of the world or picked-off by birds of prey.

God so loved the world that he sewed. The Seed was the Word of God, His Son, Jesus.  We are the soil. But what kind of soil?  There’s today’s question.

We have the parable of the sower today in Matthew’s gospel, and it looks a little like Jesus as Johnny Appleseed.   Do you remember the legend of this ‘Appleman’ crossing the country and sowing seeds to the earth?  Johnny Appleseed is an American children’s story, and it may be a lesson of just explaining and thankfully telling about our fruitful land, in the tale of a man sowing seeds that become apple orchards across the Midwest American trail.

Jesus is much more than a legend or exaggerated folk figure.  He really IS the great coming of God to walk humanly among us to sow the possibilities of new life and fruits in the Spirit. Jesus sowed the fruitfulness for eternity for us!  As another Gospel quoted Jesus saying: “the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” He sowed salvation for sinners.

In this gospel, at Mathew 13, it sounds or reads like Jesus is looking back to examine how His good seed took to people of the earth, to whom He gave the seed, of Himself as the Saving Word.  He is observing here in the text of how He was received in open welcome by some folks, which is one of four exampled responses.  He also is commenting that three of four persons were not cooperating in having His teaching planted in them. That is not a good percentage on our side, revealing that many don’t see the need for The Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Response “A” (of the four soils) is the soft and yielding soil of a trusting believer. Jesus celebrates this kind of person(s) and their fruitful consequences.

Then, He points to Response “B,” of His good seed that has fallen on ground that is only so-so, which refers to someone who is only giving shallow ground away, but lacking the deep faith and love and trust they need for His coming to be effective in them.

Jesus gives His example “C” of response; it is of when a person receives the Good Word, the seed of God, but it lands on a surface that is too surrounded by temporal, selfish cares, or worldly stuff, as called as thorns. The problem here: worldly matters mean much more than God’s matters.  What is the result of this response? Often, those worldly cares choke out the Word in life for this type of person.  This game of thorns’ is much a game of thrones, as in, who is in the throne of their soul?  Is it The Mighty Me or the Lord Jesus? The selfish-me-life chokes on all their vain pursuits.

Or, consider Example “D,” the fourth response, as it is one whereupon a person is so sinfully selfish, and ego-centric, that it results in nearly shutting out God and any fertility and growth in one’s spiritual life, because of hardness of heart. For–even while the Seed was sown by The Lord for good, in this fourth person, the seed falls in the hardened, worldly path, and then it gets picked off by birds of prey, to God’s dismay, since He made us for Himself, but He will honor the freedom’s term of our will, and that of our own free decision to choose our soul soil.

Let us hope we take this parable seriously. Jesus says: ‘Those who have ears, listen up!’

Bravo to the people who hear themselves fitting in category A.  That means you are doing much in cooperation with God to be alive in Christ.  ‘Right?!

In an interesting interpretation I heard, someone has commented that maybe we individually and corporally as a church can be a mix of all four types of soil in our field. Some parts very open to God, some shallow and hesitant with God, some areas way too worldly, and some parts just very resistant to God.   We all need to yearn for being the good soil, and for those caught in the rebellious hard ground, we pray the Lord’s Prayer and “deliver us from evil, for Thine is the Kingdom.”

That is a short look at today’s images given by Jesus, as He tries, in a parabolic way, to explain the human condition, and our need to abide in God with the good soil of cooperation, in love and faith.

Jesus is pleased with those who till in their Catholic faith for good, open ground in them to Him.

Ol’ Johnny Appleseed was probably pleased, too, at all the apple trees that sprung up across America.

While Johnny didn’t head eastward, we know what success apple orchards have had in mid-and-western Maryland, many groves are giving a great harvest, and Johnny would give a thumbs up to the Old Line State here, with our fine tasty apple cider, jams, apple butter, and other fruits of the earth to enjoy and share here.

God in Christ seeks a harvest of souls. People who are alive in the fruits of His Spirit are His delight.

ln this parish here, I am hoping we can yield many fruits in The Spirit together, and that I can rejoice in the fruit of the Spirit already sown and alive in you, and so, too, you of me. We are God’s field.

God has so much invested in this parish and in each you, and He wants, in Jesus Christ Glorified and Risen, for you to have the abundant life in Him.

Does that sound good to you?  Can you say yes to what God in His goodness wants to do in you, and in us?

I think the parable has us yearning to be good fertile ground for His purposes here.  Not rocky, thorny, prickly, hardened earth, and certainly not to be easy pickings for the birds of prey against God’s wondrous plan.  “Lord, help us to be good ground for you.”

I find it interesting that the epistle reading for this Sunday describes the groaning sound, which is heard and cannot be denied.  It’s a groaning for things to be right.    The world and humankind is fallen and broken, so the groaning about it is daily, it’s the groaning of hurting and lost people.  But I’d like to add, that it also can be the longing sound for us to all  be right with God.   They are personal groans and some collective groans.   In the groaning sounds of the longing of the broken creation to get whole and right and restored– I hear the Holy Spirit, for He speaks to us of the call to get wholly into Jesus, our salvation.  He speaks in our inward groaning that we really need spiritual response, to keep on in our becoming the children of God.

Even while humanity rebels or just foolishly sins against God (as we each do sometimes) or when people just struggle to accept the reign of God, and live by faith in the Son of God– all nature indeed groans for The Day we do get whole again, and our souls do yearn even cooperate at our best with the re-offered Kingdom of God.

Let us live in the hope of Jesus, so to keep on coming up for a rising. Today’s Psalm 65 verse wraps it all up: It tells us  “The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.”  God will sometimes drench those furrowed rows, or soften it with showers, blessing its yield.   May we be a great harvest field for Jesus the Lord.

 

 

 

14th Sunday Homily Meekness: Let the Mighty Me only eek out. (My last St. Ed homily)

I was planning to play and sing a song for you in this last homily, but I don’t have the health and voice for it today.  Look and listen for the Michael W Smith video on our parish web site:  “Friends are Friends Forever. ”

The readings today are all about meekness, and the Lord evidently wanted to have me give you a message on it today, even if in a croaky, bullfrog voice.

I will start out on the children’s level.  Boys and girls, when I was around your age, my Mom took in a 2 or 3-year old girl into our house, to care for her, while her own mother could not.  She stayed with us for many months, until returning to her own mom.  This girl was called Cynthia or Cindy, but I called her “screaming Mimi (me-me).”  She was the most selfish little girl!   All she ever did was yell “me… me…me!”  Or “mine… mine…mine.”  She only seemed to care for herself, and I did not like that much, being her temporary or foster older brother.   Screaming Mimi!   Meekness– this word that Jesus uses to describe Himself, is just the opposite.   It’s when you don’t cry and demand me, me, me all the time.   It’s when you care as much as others as you do for yourself, and show it.   That’s meekness.

In fact, it is kind of weird that the letters of m-e-  do begin the word meekness.   Because a meek person doesn’t begin with themselves or me.   If they are any bit selfish, then their me-me part only eeks out.   Eeks out means that it only comes out a little, as like only drips of being selfish.   Meekness only has your selfish “me” just eeking out from time to time.  But mostly you are humble and ok.

Jesus said:  “I am meek and humble of heart.”   These words we heard from Him today in the Gospel.   Jesus says that it is a very good thing to be like that– meek and humble.   For sure, you won’t be a screaming Mimi.  At least not when you are older.  I got to say that when you are 2 or 3 of age, you might be expected to be a bit self-centered, making sure you are noticed and get what you need from the big people.

Everyone:  We all know that one of the Beatitudes of Jesus was “Blessed are the Meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”   It is one of 8 special ways Jesus marked out for discipleship.  We are each called to be blessed, by being meek, like Him.

Meekness is an important message of Jesus the Word, and it is a theme of His Hebrew Testament revelation as well.

Let’s review some verses of what we heard proclaimed in Scripture this weekend.

Zechariah gives a prophecy about how to recognize the Messiah and Deliverer of the world when He comes.   In Zechariah 9 it says: “See, your King shall come to you; a just Savior is He, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.”

This is clearly a reference to meekness and a clear image of it.   God comes among us in all meekness.  He comes in a manner of revelation that is not merely surface level, but is only to be caught on by people who are truly seeking in their minds and hearts for something deep.  Jesus rides on the simple animals amidst ordinary people with palm branches, because He was coming as a king among the people.  Meekness and humility-of-Being is something God values very much, so it is His choice to be revealed in such a way.  Imagine that!  God is Supreme and Omnipotent but prefers a humble revelation.  Huh.

And He wants us to practice meekness.

Next, in Psalm 145 it says that meek people pray and bless, yes, they get down on their knees and pray to God:  “Your faithful ones bless you.  Let them discourse of the glory of YOUR kingdom and speak of YOUR might. The LORD… raises up all who are bowed down.”   Notice how the meek person is boasting of God’s kingdom and might, and not of themselves.

There is a value, then, every Sunday Mass and in any daily Mass, that we get down on our knees and worship God, right?   And that we look for God to come to us in meekness, such as in private prayer, or family prayer, or community prayer, too!  Right?

Well, the One Who entered Jerusalem in the final climax of His ministry, in stark meekness, also was the One who acted so very meekly in establishing the Eternal Covenant in Himself, when, at the Upper Room, He broke bread and poured forth wine, and He told people, Now, this is MY Body, This is My Blood, This is Me.   Then the Meek Lord Jesus freely submitted Himself to the Cross–to put into effect this meek covenant sign of His Body and Blood in our Holy Communion at Mass.  Amazing.

So we get down on our knees and pray in unison to the God Who keeps coming meekly to us.  It’s His Real Presence, alright!  We love You, O Meek Jesus, in Your Body and Blood outpoured for us in Holy Mass.

Let us jump into the Gospel for more Scriptures on meekness.   Jesus gives praise to the Heavenly Father that His little ones (that is, His followers, who are meek people) have been able to find revelation and discovery through God’s meekness in His Christ.

This is a word to His Eucharist lovers today, His true worshippers in Him as Sacrament. Jesus says;  “I give praise to You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although You have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, You have revealed them to Your little ones. (The littles are the only ones who would be meek and humble enough to get Jesus’ revelation!) Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will….”

Now hear Jesus say, again, by this Matthew 11 text, that He can give rest and comfort to the meek and lowly of His flock:   “Come to Me… and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart.”

The question these Scriptures pose for us today is:   Are we the meek He is talking about?   Are we living in meekness– so to have this rest and comfort and revelation for a deep, mystical experience of God among us?   Do we know enough about the beatitude of meekness?  Could we be missing something of God because we don’t get it that The King and Just Savior might come among us in a meek or humble way?

I hope that makes you (and I) think a bit on it today.

And, by the way, to preach on meekness does not make me the model of meekness, just the announcer of it.  I want to say here, that, as your pastor for a decade, if I have been proud in any time, and not in the Lord’s meekness, then I ask for your pardon.   If I seemed to wrongly put you or the Lord behind my own personal (and selfish) will, then I am sorry, and Lord have mercy on me.   Amen.

 

Application.     If you would like to read on for some application, then be my guest…

 

An example I can give of meekness in The Church is of The Little Sisters of the Poor.    Almost trampled recently by our own government, and forced to comply with indecent new laws or to go bankrupt in not practicing it, the Little Sisters are real wonders in their saying “no” to following an unjust new law, which had asked of them to practice an immorality, connected to abortion or anti-life measures in the workplace. These sisters said no to that.  They said:  We’d rather be obedient to God then comply in evil, even indirectly or complicity.    They stood up to HHS.   It was valiant, and it also was meek.   Meek doesn’t mean weak: it means living sincerely and humbly before God… with the triad order of God, then others, then self.   It’s what the Little Sisters do so well.  The love God.  They serve others, especially to the elderly poor, such as in the St. Jeanne Jugan house on Harewood Rd. in D.C.   Then they care for self.  All in Jesus’ Name.  As Jesus describes Himself as meek, in today’s Matthew 11 text, He then declares:   “Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened down, and find rest for yourselves.”   What Bible verse could describe better what the Little Sisters do?!

Are you moved by this example?!   Well, the pope was.   Do you remember this?  Pope Francis made an unscheduled stop in his DC visit to the local house of the Little Sisters, and it was to give thanks for their witness, in standing strong versus the oppression from their own government and unjust laws being proposed within ObamaCare, while also continuing to do what they always do.  Act meekly and love deeply.

Pope Francis makes notice of the lowly, and raises them up for us to see.  In another example, on May 13th, he canonized two of the shepherd children who witnessed the Fatima apparitions a century ago.   Francesco and Jacinta, the names of these two children saints, are the youngest- ever non-martyr canonized persons in the Church’s history.   The deep faith of two “little one” believers, who both would pass before reaching the age of 11, was told to be profound.   They spent long hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament (Holy Communion in the Tabernacle or in a Monstrance), and prayed in penitential fashion for a world they saw to be in great sin, and great danger by it.   They pleaded God’s mercy, and Mary’s help, and for many people to join them with Mary, seeking holiness of life.  Of course, the visions they received of Heaven, Hell, Purgatory– and the state of people’s souls (in grace or disgrace)— inspired their devout life.

My former parish of St. Edward in Bowie has ordered a statue of Our Lady of Fatima, with the three visionaries of Lucy, and that of Francesco and Jacinta.   It will be put up in the Marian shrine on the little hill behind the church, once the order comes in.  Hopefully the statue will say that we value meekness among us, when that virtue is lived out, like as it was lived out in the two new children saints of Fatima.

Blessed indeed are the meek— Heaven is theirs and the whole new earth forever.   They will live on in Light—and the proud and arrogant and conniving and worldly wise manipulators will perish.    So says the Lord God.

A New Sanctuary, Tabernacle, and Marian Spot to serve (A quiet visit to Resurrection Church)

Here I am standing in the Church of Resurrection, over in Burtonsville. I am transferred from St. Edwards to this parish, as appointed by Archbishop Wuerl on Friday.    Here are some photos in the church.

It was quiet in here tonight.  I did meet some women in a prayer group in the vestibule room afterwards, and they prayed over me, upon my bidding.   A couple of them already knew me, which was nice to experience.   I don’t know who I know here at Resurrection, but it’s probably only a small number.    Yet I came in to meet the Lord of the House, whom we all know:  Jesus.   I met Him in the Blessed Sacrament.    I looked over at the honored spot for Blessed Mary, and I looked upon the altar where I will likely pray hundreds, if not thousands of liturgies, and hopefully very many personal prayers in the pew.

(I came dressed casually today)    IMAG1416_1
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Who is a parish to get as their new pastor? A Vocations Thought

I was traveling with a Cardinal to a parish, one that was to get a new pastor, as their one was leaving in a few months.  The process of filling the pastorate was not begun yet, but because the Cardinal was visiting, the people asked him the obvious question:  “What kind of priest will we get as our new one?”

I heard him say:  “We haven’t started looking yet, but I can tell you that you will get him from the lot which you have supplied me in this Archdiocese.  I give to you of the priests that you give to me…   Who are you giving to me, or who have you given to me?”  The people thought about it, and said:  “Sadly, we haven’t given the diocese a priest vocation yet, nor do we have one in the seminary.”   “Ah,” his Eminence replied, “…gladly some of the other parishes and families in the diocese have given me some priests, so I will choose from among them.  You will get from what another parish has supplied me in a priest vocation.”

I think his point was that vocations come from our parishes, and that is mostly where we find our next priests.   A future hoped-for pastor is a person that may be in our parish right now, who could use some encouragement to look into the calling.

Cardinal McCarrick was that person, and he had a nice positive way of asking parishes about how they are promoting priestly vocations, and he made it to many of his 140 parishes in that time he shepherded Washington.  The numbers went up in his time.

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Sometimes people complain with who they get for their new priest or pastor.   As in:  “We don’t like this one.”   Yet I do wonder with them if they have actively helped get men into the priesthood, and supported the priestly ministry of Washington overall.  When one parish complained of getting an Asian-American priest to their parish (and wanted a white, Caucasian, preferably born in Southern Md., I said to a few of them (and thought it privately among others):   “This county has had very few vocations to Washington, so the pool of what you want is not much there.  Why not help vocations thrive in this area?   But MOST of all, why not accept the vocations God is providing to you?  This Asian-American is a great representative of an predominantly Asian Catholic community in the Metro area, and you should be pleased to have him come serve among you.  You are getting a great priest here.   ‘Better give him a chance, because the Holy Spirit sent him here to you.

People are sometimes oddly funny in the way they react to a new priest/pastor.  One parish group complained that their new pastor prayed too much beforehand (prior to Mass), interfering with their long-established casual, talking atmosphere before Mass, right up to the opening song.  Now he was ‘ruining it’ in his pre- Mass meditations, kneeling in the front pew. They knew little about this new pastor, but felt free to immediately gripe. Wow.  I felt like saying:  Why not rejoice in a praying priest new among you? And visit and talk after Mass to each other?  I felt like chastising them for their insulting and ungracious behavior.

Where does a bishop get his priest vocations?   Mostly from the families and parishes in his diocese.   Yet the numbers of men going into seminary are still lacking.   Why?  It may be so because that many in the Church are so removed from care and support of our vocations to priesthood.  I would encourage you here at St. Edward to be active in vocations support.  Chris Garner remains our vocations liaison, and it is neat, because he is now a new permanent deacon candidate for our Archdiocese.

In our own parish here, we had just one enter our DC priests recruitment for seminary, in all my decade here. He’s the first since our parish started in 1972.  While he did not go on to Holy Orders, I am most proud of him for being open to the call.

In our parish, we have another family with a vocation to the priesthood, into the Pre-Catechumenate Way.  He is Jason Mantich.  He is studying for Newark Archdiocese.

Another family who moved in here have a son in seminary for the Ft. Wayne diocese. His name is Bonaventure Gbabba.

Yet, as of now, we’ve not had a first Mass of a young man raised here at St. Edward. I hope someday in our future there will be.

I have hope, because I came from a neighborhood corridor (from Kenhill Drive/Tasker MS over to a couple blocks past Kenilworth school towards Belair Drive) which has produced a bunch of DC priest vocations.   We all came from St. Pius X parish.   In my neighborhood within a few blocks of my Kittery lane address, the following vocations did come:  (me),  Fr. Richard Welch, Most. Rev. Barry Knestout, Fr. Mark Knestout, Fr. Tom Woods, Fr. Tim Breslin, and Fr. Dave Wells.

The other side of Bowie has also produced a good number of priests from Sacred Heart parish.

We’ve got to get South Bowie and Mitchellville/Upper Marlboro going with a wave, too.

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The Cardinal was right: he gives priests from among the group that the ADW gives him. We have good young men coming out of this parish for the past four-and-a-half decades, with more good ones currently— so we are due for a breakout.

 

13th Sunday Homily (Thanks and Farewell) from Fr. Barry

Today is my tenth anniversary of being here at St. Edward–Bowie.   I wanted to just say thanks to all of you today, for the main message of this homily.  I have given 500 or so Sunday Homilies for you since July 1, 2007, when I first arrived.  This one will mix in my thanks, using a set of readings that lends well to a homily of appreciation.  These 13th Sunday “A” Scriptures speak about support that ought to be given to the worker of the Lord, and it also speaks of the blessings that go to and fro in co-relation of service workers to the community.  That is, we are blessed in God’s Spirit in our shared work for The Kingdom.

I became your fifth pastor a decade ago, and it was a real joy for me.   It was a homecoming to Bowie for me, and I do love this city.  (I’m a SPX School/ Tasker M.S./ Bowie High alum of old.)   It was nice to be here in a parish where Mom has been going since 1986, and to where Dad had likewise come over here with her from St. Pius X parish, since he was a new deacon in 1986, and that he was assigned here under Fr. Kemp.   He then served under two more pastors of Kehoe and Foley, until his passing in 2004.   I met a number of you back then at that wake and funeral of Dad, but knew some of you way before, and I knew some people from the K of C too, and some from my growing up days, and more.  Many of you, though, started afresh with me, or joined on along the way, and it has been nice to be in this faith community with you.

I had served in some parishes in crisis beforehand as a pastor or as a fill-in stop gap pastor, so it was so nice to come to a normal and happy parish and be your pastor and for so long a time.   I was hoping to build upon that good thing you had going here at St. Edward, and I think God has used me for good in this community of faith.  We remain as a good normal and happy parish, and I hope you have liked some of the things the Holy Spirit inspired me to do as your pastor for the decade.   I did enjoy shepherding here, and being on the journey of faith with you as we have pressed on the goal of meeting Christ in Glory.

Today’s reading from the Old Testament mentions that the prophet Elisha had a great supporter and a friend in a woman of Shumen (who is unnamed, so we’ll call her Misha), and she, like some others, knew that the man of God needed support around him, such as financial helps, and prayer, and love, and common spirit.  She was well off and talented, but also very much in need of more growth in the Lord.   She was so happy to meet Elisha the prophet.   She gave support to him, and he was so blessed for it, and likely very grateful.   Well, I can identify with that.   You have been support to me, St. Edward family, as a pastor doesn’t go it alone, and is as good as the people and participation around him.  I have had your love and parish dedication of time, talent and treasure from a good enough number of people to do some fine things here with that offering.  Together you have been a “Misha” to me.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.   I hope I have been your favored man of God, too, like the Bible story, though the story is about one of the greats, so I make no comparison to Elisha, that’s for sure.

It says that Elisha to give back to the woman of Shumen, as by a suggestion of her servant Gehani, who said that her sorrow was not being able to bear a child.   Elisha is given a prophesy in the Spirit, and he uttered aloud a prophetic word upon the woman, (Misha), and the prophet’s prayer led to a miracle and motherhood for her.   Nice.  We surmise that Misha was married, so two people got the miracle in that story.  Well, here at St. Edward, we have had some miracles and blessings here, too— going both ways– and I won’t single one out, but some definite works of God have been manifest here.  I hope I have been means of blessing to you.

As I thought of miracles where God has used me, I am guided to the thousands of Masses I’ve prayed here at altar before you, and with you.   Those are the miracles, all by Christ the Priest’ means through the holy orders he bestowed on me, that I might be so led to connect as our shared miracle.   I think especially of the many Sunday ones and special Holy Days’ ones here.  There’s been the miracle shared in our story of priest and people in liturgy.  We have had the Eucharistic miracle on a daily occasion here, sometimes several a day.   That’s the miracle of what I will remember most strongly between us:  how we gathered here in Jesus, The Bread of Life.

I will recall Sunday Eucharist and Daily Eucharist, and also those times by the altar for weddings, funerals, RCIA conversions, and Confirmations and 1st Holy Communions.   I will also hold dearly all the Masses over at the regional St. Pius school too, where I once watched the priests do it for me as a youth, and now returned to do it for the new generation. Nice.

Back to the Scriptures….

In this Gospel of Matthew 10, the chapter we are in is called the Mission chapter.  Jesus sends people out on mission to spread the Good News, namely the apostles here (and later the 72 disciples will also be commissioned, as Luke would tell us).   The apostles go out to the villages and towns to meet people and to share with them the Rabbi Jesus’ message and His works of healing.   In this mission effort, there are many people who receive the apostes in, and Jesus says that as they received them in (as His sent disciples)– that they were receiving Him in, as well.   He said that the prophet or evangelist or workman of God was worth his wage of support, in the giving of lodging, food and welcome.   Indeed, the apostles and some disciples came back, saying to their Master that there were people who welcome them in, receiving the teachings of Jesus, and some receiving the healings of Christ via them.   Jesus was glad for this report of some support afforded His sent ones.  He says that Heaven notices even for a cup of cold water given to someone representing Him.

Later in Jesus ministry, He would be the traveling rabbi with disciples going through Bethany, when cups of water were likely offered to Him, in the neighborhood of Martha and Mary and Lazarus.   Then they even extended much more to Jesus and company, and they become close friends.    I think of that story, too, in relation to Matthew 10, in the friends made and love found along the way in ministry, such as here since 2007. Thanks.

Again, like the first reading, Matthew 10 describes how it was an expected giving or generosity to assist God’s workman, and again, you have done that for me with some food, lodging, and a little pay for keeping my ministry here as priest.   I can thank you again for that.

You know, in the seminary, I wrote a 42-page exposition of this missions chapter 10 of Matthew, giving Scriptural exegesis on it, and forming some of my own opinion on it.   I did notice its appeal to the person in a priest vocation who leaves family life, like myself, and makes the church community his family.  Indeed, that is who you are to me:  family.   Even while I do have family here in the area, and I love them:  I am committed to serving you and the others in the Church of Washington of whom the Archbishop sends me out to help.  That was my life’s dedication at ordination–to serve the Church of Washington.

Living the message has been somewhat challenging, as in my being moved around a few places:  4 as pastor and 3 as associate pastor/ parochial vicar. And 1 in a floating half-year when I served several places from a parish in-residence, while doing a tenth year sabbatical.  Living Matthew 10 has been harder than writing about Matthew 10.   Especially in this week.   After a great ten years with you as pastor, suddenly on Friday I have been named to pastor/administer another parish.   I am being transferred.  In fact, I am as of Saturday the shepherd of a parish in Eastern Montgomery County called Resurrection Parish Burtonsville.    I have about 2 weeks to move my things from here, and to celebrate Mass just up to mid-July and then leave you.   It’s sad for me to have to go, after so many good times together, and in renewal in the Lord and His Spirit, and with new personnel coming on in the parish.  You now have a new music director, Megan Weeks, as of July 1, and you have a regular and new parish secretary, Cres Soisson, who will be officially the lone secretary on Wednesday, as our Jackie Macri retired on Friday.   I just hired them, but they will be serving under a new pastor.

So I am to go.  To Resurrection Parish in Burtonsville.   It is in Eastern Montgomery county, right off Rt. 29 in the corridor between Silver Spring and Columbia, Maryland.

To explain briefly, of the sudden change, many weeks ago the Archbishop told me that he wanted for my next parish to be Resurrection Parish, Burtonsville, as whenever it opened up to need a new pastor.   He thought it might need a new pastor soon.  I did not know when that would be, but quickly on Friday I was asked to change, and by Saturday, July 1st,  I was named.   It was an unusual way to do it, as all the other transfers were done openly back in May, but this post had a private reasonable explanation for how it was handled, thus, which I need not try to more detail for you.   The effect of it is that it takes me out of here rather abruptly.  Sorry for that.  The parishes of Resurrection and of Sacred Heart Bowie and ours have the announcement to make.   Fr. Scott Holmer to here, as your new pastor/administrator. Me to Resurrection parish in Burtonsville.

Today was planned to just be a tenth anniversary of thanks to you, of my happiness of being with you so long, but now it has just two weeks left to it, and I make this my official farewell, even while I will be here all this weekend and next, and cover many daily Masses until July 12th.   I knew the announcement might be coming soon, so I was afraid that this abrupt farewell might happen, but at least I had a small party planned for outside after all Masses today.   So we shall gather after Mass.

So who is the new priest coming in?   It is Fr. Scott Holmer.  He lives right here in Bowie, as the parochial vicar at Sacred Heart–Bowie, on Rt. 450.   He just will need to take a right on Rt. 3 and go 5 traffic lights south, and make a right onto Mitchellville Road, and up to #1940.   It’s a short move for him.  Not a far way to go.   You will like Fr. Holmer, as I do, and he is a marvelous choice to be your next pastor.   I have been working quietly with him in recent days and weeks, so to prepare him for this place.  I have been doing some residence renewal for him, too, as a hearty welcome in.   He will start likely on July 13th.

Three special words, people:   I love you.

Four others:  I will miss you.

Yet this truth remains:  We are one in the Body of Christ, and nothing will separate that union in the Spirit.   We are one.

Happy Independence Day Weekend, folks.    In this Year of Grace, a parting message:  It has been a grace and gift to be with you.

Finally, as we sing in the CWA prayer group here:  I love you with the love of the Lord, yes I love you with the love of the Lord, I can see in you, the glory of the King, and I love you with the love of the Lord.   imag0801_1