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.