My last homily at St. Edward parish in Bowie was for the monthly Filipino Mass. I first spoke of my history with the Filipino community building at the parish, but then I gave a homily on meekness. The homily part is about 12 minutes. It is a video included here. I thank Steve Duhig for taping it for me and making it available.
Goodbye St Edwards. Photo at my start with the Cardinal. Photo halfway with Bishop Knestout. Photo of me in the 1980’s next to Deacon Dad here. Photo of the church today.
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.
We host people on the property sometimes for special things. For instance, we were the host of a gala anniversary Mass for a well-regarded DC Catholic woman, held in esteem especially by Black Catholics. A few clergy joined in to a congregation of mostly guests to St. Edward church. The party following Mass was at Camelot.
We had a Focolare Movement Mass visit on Saturday here, too. African-born Catholics from here and other places met and prayed here to recall with thanksgiving of how Focolare come to their aid back home some years ago to provide them a future of hope. These immigrant Catholics in America are living that dream today.
Who else is visiting us at St. Edward church? We have guests here for our parish talks. In October, we have had numerous persons come here on occasion to church to hear our guest speakers, such as on two recent Monday nights. On one of them, Fr. Mindling of Mt. St. Mary’s and a doctor and lawyer spoke on Respect Life Issues for end-of-life care for the sick and dying. He thanks the sizable crowd who heard this Bioethics talk. Brian Pusateri also spoke here on the Grace of Forgiveness, and helping people hear how to move from their own brokenness to blessedness, via openness of our need to share Mercy more whole- heartedly. He thanks folks who came out, both from our parish and from elsewhere, and he is glad to stay in touch via his 4th Day weekly email. Google Brian Pusateri and 4th Day News to sign up for his letter.
Each month we host a Cursillo “Ultreya” meeting here on the property, as well as an Italian Club gathering in the church hall area. They both come in next week, with a mix of St. Ed’s members and outsiders.
Who else visits the property?
On the first Sunday of this month we had hundreds here for our outside Fun Day feast of St. Edward the Confessor. See the banner page for film footage of it.
In October we have had several funerals, making the church a gathering place of mourners. Yet, in a happy balance, we have had more baptism gatherings in church this month than for Masses of Christian burial. We also had two October Saturday weddings, bringing in families and friends here. The Wisconsinites and East Baltimoreans for Mike and Amanda’s wedding were fun to be with. The music and joy at Brian and Lisbeth’s wedding was quite special, too, for mostly a Bowie crowd in church.
Each month we host the Girl Scout mobile unit for supplies to members and to make local contact, so to save Scout leaders and members the long trip to GSA headquarters. The Mobile Unit was here last Friday, in our lot.
Lastly, there is one group that comes on to our property now and then, but not willfully, but for being pulled over for speeding on the Mitchellville Road bend, where the Bowie Police like to enforce the traffic speed law. I saw the police here today (photo below), with a guilty motorist soon getting pulled over into our parking lot. It was the only case lately of a visitor to St. Edward not pleased or blessed to be here.
Do you see the police car?
I will make a few comments on today’s time spent in a funeral for senior member Araxalie Ann (Roxanne) del Real. From preparations for the 11 a.m. Mass here and to my return home at 5 p.m.– it was the main focus of my Friday today– with just the parish’s morning Mass and a wedding rehearsal in the evening bookending my working day.
As I type these words onto my phone right now, I think about how my blog covers only a smattering of my pastoral life experiences. So many things take place every day, with nary a mention about them here. I have only a little time available to blog. I have had other funerals this Summer that I didn’t write about, such as one for a baby or another for a relative, or another for a lapsed- Catholic who came back to the Church days before dying. In this Year of Mercy, the Lord God is pleased to be there for His people in the Sacraments, prayers, visits, Rites and Masses of Christ’ Church. HE keeps showing Himself to be Mercy, Reconciliation and Redemption for us.
So, while other good living ministry is also happening in my pastoral life, I will write in here a few thoughts and good feelings about what went on today for Roxanne’s ‘send off.’
It was a good day in Works of Mercy in the Year of Mercy.
(What I do mostly have usual time for in this blog is to post Sunday homilies, which is an easy cut and paste from computer documents, which was my main reason to do a blog.)
Back to the Mass of Resurrection, our giving a lot of time for a family’s need at the occasion of a loved one’s death is well-spent. It’s a gift of mercy. We had about 80-90 family mourners today, and our parish (with some staff attending/ helping) joined them in prayer and shared their presence to this family in grief and loss. We did our remembering together and our taking leave of Roxanne. Everyone seemed blessed in the Spirit at this liturgy today, as well as through to the repass. That gives me satisfaction, which I am feeling as I quickly blog this down…
Funerals take planning. I met with the family to plan the Mass of Resurrection. There had been some pre-planning with Roxanne, too, and visits to her in her grave illness. Our music minister staff person Bill also called the family and emailed them for their picking out the desired music and songs. Thus, we had some nice choices made for today, and it included nice liturgical participation by the family in the Mass. A parish cantor, Melanie, came in to sing and did a good job leading us in song.
Funerals come often by surprise to our parish schedule and to mine, and we just have a few days to get ready for this Mass and the other matters. Roxanne died last Sunday. The funeral Mass and burial was today. That put a few priorities on the table.
Praying a Mass for Roxanne was the first and highest order of service for her. I wanted it to be a dignified while also a personal liturgy. In that liturgy we had the Word of God and message. Trying to tell Roxanne’s story and partly to interpret it in Catholic-Christian meaning was another important aspect of the funeral. I call it the weaving of God’s Word into a life story. It takes discernment, along with a reporter or writer’s knack for pulling together some telling of what the beloved departed was like and how God intersected with their life, intending to save them in Himself.
In the homily and songs today, I sensed how God put that weaving in quite obviously and nicely. People were comforted.
I noted some themes today in Roxanne’s life to tell today, such as the meaning and practice of the Sacred Heart devotion for her, and how it started for her in her youth and shaped her life view from there. I also noted the influence of her Armenian Orthodox heritage, with her experience as an immigrant’s daughter, and the impact of the Church on her from immigrant-loving Catholic people who blessed her. Another blessing of Catholicism/Armenian Orthodoxy to note in her life was of how the Faith crossed the Atlantic and also was constant whether in St. Louis or the DC area.
I saw in the readings that the family had chosen that they had a child of God connection theme that I could tie in with personal anecdotes. So I did. Lastly, I thought of a tribute to Roxanne to make in comparing her to Anna of the Bible (Lk. 2), thanking her for her concerns for St. Edward the Confessor church.
The themes and ideas and stories flowed and worked out well.
The family had two members that wanted to speak in the liturgy; Roxanne’s son and sister shared words. Later, at the reception/’repass’, another family relative added more reflections.
The burial was a distance away at Gate of Heaven, where we went. Gladly for us, the weather outdoors was at its best in two months. The reception afterward was at the daughter’s home where we could talk a little more casually. I went. I almost always do go to repasses, valuing the time to show more care and presence from the Church to the mourners in the post-liturgy time. I usually get a bite to eat, too, at homes and halls where we gather. There are evangelism opportunities, too, to notice and to act on among people at any funeral.
The Gate of Heaven cemetery has wide spaces and big lawns and religious imagery all around. I show it in these photos. I stopped by their lovely chapel and took these snapshots.
The stained glass reminded me that a Mass of Resurrection and a day of honor are moments when and where God lets some Light into our minds and hearts. He is our window to eternal hope.
The Resurrection image over the chapel altar is beautiful. I have prayed a few Masses in that sanctuary– a special peace is there.
It turns out that a person who knew me years ago was there in the chapel, and God had arranged for us to meet. The person had some need to talk over a sadness and trial in their life presently. We talked for 35 minutes. It was a blessed, friendly time. Thank you, God.
Roxanne was sick vlover the past months, as her health took its turn for the worse. She moved out of her house, and after a hospital visit, she lived in the care of her daughter in her dying weeks. It was in Burtonsville. I visited her there a few times. In those times included anointings and prayers, but also some other ‘just being there’ time with her, like when we watched a full Yanni concert on a big screen tv. 🙂
I appreciated the loving actions by the family for their Roxie in her dying days. I also felt compassion for two grade-school age grandchildren of Roxanne, who had to process this goodbye, which reminded me of myself in 1967 and 1970, in that situation.
Of course, the death of a person we know (in my case, elderly friend and parish member) reminds me starkly of how short and fragile is our earthly existence, and how meaningful each day really is.
Lastly, I remember my own memories of her in these past eight years of being her pastor. She was faithful to Mass, dependable on checking up on friends, a regular visitor or caller to the rectory, and a prayer intercessor.
She was heartened and thankful for being a caring mother of two, raising them mostly as a single parent (I am told) and into successful adulthood. Greg and Christine (once youth in St. Edwards, now adults in Rockville and Burtonsville), survive Roxanne, along with other family.
The parish hosted a 2 – day Catholic conference for the Catholic Women’s Association on the topic of the leadership and service to the Church. Our parish chapter members and other CWA women totalled 70 in number. My 80-minute Saturday session talk and discussion looked at the Biblical example of Martha and Mary as two types of discipleship in Christ that feature the need for sitting with Jesus and going out and serving Jesus. It is the harmony of the healthy and good Christian life that leads the best results.
In our Holy Week liturgies, we have the Palm Sunday Gospel (Mark 11:1-10) and the Passion of Christ Gospel (drama versions) from Mark’s Gospel (ch. 14 & 15– Palm Sunday) and John’s Gospel (ch. 18 & 19– Good Friday).
These gospels brings to mind some details from Our Lord’s Sacred Passion… I thought of three things to share.
#1. Jesus Christ is presented in His Procession as The Innocent God-Man. His procession towards Jerusalem, amidst the chorus of Hosannas, is as the only One in humankind of absolute goodness, purity, love and truth. He was heading to the capital named The City of Peace, to present Himself there at the Temple, to the place of covenants, and to the hill where the Abrahamic promise was made long ago(Gen.22:8-18 “God will provide a lamb…an altar…a sacrifice…a Son”). Jesus rides an unridden colt as symbol of his peace and innocence. He had even pre-chosen it. In contrast to this scene of palms and honors and serenity, on the other side of the city comes in the marching Roman security forces on mighty horses, with the soldiers wielding weapons for imposing their will on the public. It will be a dramatic Passover.
Today, as we respond to these Gospels of Jesus, we need to affirm that He is our only Peace and Innocence and we need Him as Savior and Lord of our lives. Any lesser opinion of Him (as such some minor influence or help to our lives) is unworthy of Him and of any salvation in His Name. We cannot stand on our own merits; only Jesus is the Advocate of Peace and Innocence for us.
#2. The gospel texts indicate that Jesus had made specific preparations for this particular Passover in Jerusalem. He stayed at his usual welcome place in Bethany (from there came the Palm Procession), and he pre-asked for use of that certain colt. He also had ‘readied’ the room for His Passover meal with His disciples. It is said to be an Upper Room of a certain place. The Supper is prepared to happen, the Altar of the Cross awaits, and the Tomb on Golgotha’s hill awaits empty. Jesus comes freely to “fulfill all things.” Jesus says “The Hour is now come.”‘
Could we also understand today that Jesus has set up preparations for us to live in His Presence? He has prepared a New Passover for us (the Holy Mass) and His representatives of His communion with us (the apostolic line, via the pope and bishops) and His altar is in His Church and the emptiness of the tomb is our own emptiness if we don’t let Him be Alive and Risen in us. This is the Paschal Mystery He challenges us with. God also has a Body for us to dwell together under His Lordship. We are called together to the Supper of The Lamb.
The third (and longer) point I draw from the Passion Gospels has to do with prophetic living. Jesus was telling of one prophesy after another in the final days of His ministry. It has direct impact upon us today, if we will heed what He says.
#3. In His time of Passion and until Death, Jesus speaks much of prophesy becoming fulfilled. Our Palm Sunday and Good Friday liturgies in this Holy Week are about His Procession and Passion and Death, and they provide the prophetic Word to us. Consider the prophetic words of Isaiah 50 and 53, and Psalms 22 and 31, which are in our liturgies. Note the quotes in Jesus’ dialogue (in the Gospels) and how they refer to Zechariah 13:7-9 and Amos 8:9 and Jeremiah 31:31-34.
Yet the key verse that brings this to mind is the verse about the taunting of Jesus by some of the Jewish leaders who fought versus Jesus. After His arrest and their ‘control’ of Him, these men dare say “now prophesy for us!” They have heard Him give one verse after another in reference to His trials (as all forecast by the prophetic Word of the Hebrew Testament), so they blindfold Him, and strike Him from different sides, cruelly saying: ‘Predict, from Scripture, of what abuse we are going to do to you next!’ (See Mark 14:57-65) This account shows that they had heard Jesus go account from account on laying what verses were being fulfilled in the Son of Man’s rejection. These Jews did not want to hear these holy things. They tried to beat Him out of saying them.
Jesus knew so much better than they of Israel’s record of turning from God. He knew such things as from the scroll of Jeremiah (ch. 36:vs.16 and following into ch.37): “Son of Man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their ways and their doings; their conduct before Me was like the uncleanness of a women in her impurity…. they (she) profaned My Holy Name…Therefore, God acted… Behold, I vindicate My holiness before your eyes… So I prophesied: I will raise up from the dead a new people, with My Spirit within them… you shall know the Lord has spoken.”
Jesus saw things as dead and needing a revival. Only a Resurrection could bring the body of believers back alive. Jesus would offer it. In absolute trust to the Father. As the Gospel proclaimed: “The Son of Man goes as is written of Him (Mk.14:21)” but ” Abba, Father, all things are possible to Thee.. do what Thou will (Mark 14:36) and “all will see (in the culmination of these events) the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming (in Glory and Rule One Day) with the clouds (angels) of Heaven.” That verse is Daniel 7:13, as quoted in Mark 14:62 in our Passion Gospel of this week in The Church in her Holy Week.
‘Talk about prophesy!
Prophesy tells us that God foreknows all things. He knew of the Blessed Son’s rejection. He knew it in the time of Genesis, and in the Exodus with Moses and through to Joshua, and onto the reigns of David and Solomon, and into the time of the prophets, like Isaiah (see chapter 53, for example). Jesus, as God with us, also saw the turning of the world against Him as in His arrest. As we proclaimed in the Passion Gospel, “The high priest tore his garments, and said, Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy here! What is your decision, people? And they all condemned Jesus as deserving death. And some began to spit on Him, and to cover his face, and to strike Him, saying to Him, “Prophesy (now)! And the guards received Him with blows.” Mark 14:63-65.
Our reaction to all of this should be to believe upon Jesus. We shall be the ones who trust in Him. We shall be His Body of believers, His Church. Hebrews 10:5, in talking of what was forming in the First Century of Faith in the Lord Jesus, speaks these important words: “Wherefore when the Anointed One, the Christ, came into the world, He said: Sacrifice and more oblation God has not desired, for the worshippers are all defiled, but a Body Thou has prepared for Me…”
Now hear the amazing verses in Hebrews 10 that follow, which describes “Church” or “the Body of Christ” to the believer: “Thus, I come to do Thy Will, O God, as it is written of Me…(you) have been sanctified through The Offering of the Body of Jesus Christ once for all…. This is the Covenant that God has made in these days: I put will My ways upon your hearts, and even inscribe them upon your minds… have confidence to enter the Sanctuary of God by the Blood of Jesus, by the New and Living Way He opened for us… (so) hold fast the confession of hope without wavering…not neglecting to meet together…nor forgetting to encourage one another, and all the more as The Day of the Lord draws nearer.”
On Good Friday, we shall hear Jesus say again, as to Pilate, but also to all of us: “I AM a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the Truth. Every one who is of the truth hears My Voice.” (John 18:37)
So let us listen to the Lord Jesus: The Way , The Truth and the Life (John 14:6)!
I had this below Bible passage sung at my First Mass, because I could relate to it as a new servant of Christ Jesus, “The Anointed One.” I was excited to be put into service by Holy Orders to more of Christ’ mission. I also had understood its application to the priesthood of the believer (the baptized) too, long before seminary time. It’s a great passage. It’s a great realization: He has anointed me.
Jesus proclaimed into fulfillment God’s coming as Priest, Prophet and King as One.
“The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
He has sent me to bring good news to the afflicted,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
release to the prisoners,
To announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God;” – Isaiah 61:1-2a
In our theme for Advent 2014 at our parish, we are recalling how such passages of the Isaiah prophecies did come into reality and fulfillment in the Savior Jesus Christ, and how He has elected a body of believers to live out a three-fold mission as His faithful. We are asked to bring good news, to bind up broken hearts, proclaim freedom and release from sin’s slavery into the graced life of God’s own people. We are asked to be priest, prophet and king via Him.
As Luke’s gospel tells, Jesus read this particular Isaiah 61 Scripture aloud in His home synagogue, at the beginning of His ministry, and He declared to them: (that) “Today, this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
And The Fulfiller has passed down to us a ministry with Him in being priest, prophet and king and called us into acting in such a way as His followers. The Church of the Third Millennium, living in 2014-2015 needs to continually fulfill her calling as the Body of Christ on Earth. Jesus wants to live His Priesthood, His Fulfilling Role as Prophet, and His Inaugurator (and Finisher) Servant of God’s Kingdom come among us, and to be brought to Heaven. He wants to do so through us, His chosen.
We have a ministerial priesthood and a priesthood of believers which needs to carry out what was prayed over each of us at our baptism: We have been commissioned. How so? After we were baptized, we were anointed with the Holy Chrism. (This is the same oil that is later used for the sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Orders.) As we were anointed with this oil, the priest (or bishop or deacon) said a prayer like the following: :
[Clergyman]: “The God of power and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin and brought you to new life through water and the Holy Spirit. He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation, so that, united with His people, you may remain for ever a member of Christ who is Priest, Prophet and King.”
Yes. We are anointed priest, prophet and king, as following in the footsteps of Christ. Jesus, Who was a priest in offering Himself up as a sacrifice for us all. He was a prophet in declaring the Kingdom of God. He was a king in His service to everyone in healing and in setting an example for us all of a life lived in holiness.
Most of us will not literally receive Holy Orders into a ministerial service to God and to in-front-of-the public roles in The Church. Many of us will not be called to a forward public ministry as a prophetic voice or a street corner prophet, getting in society’s face. Very few of us will be in a royal or special position of favor in society to move society as we think it should go. But that doesn’t matter. All of us are called into a priesthood of believers, as the baptized into Christ Jesus, where we shall be priest, prophet and king in the Lord’s own anointing for us to live in The Kingdom.
We can all be priests, prophets and kings in our own called way. We can live in this office of the believer in our everyday lives.
If we happen to be called into the specific office as Catholic priest, or to a prophetic leader’s role in social justice works, or in spreading forth the Church in missionary efforts—then so be it. Let those specific vocations come!
But all have the vocation of baptism and to be a Christian and to let God do something unique and good and holy through our lives.
So, getting started in this Advent Week One: Ask: How can I be a priest? Well, first, believe in what 1st Peter 3:29 says: “You are a chosen generation, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people: that you may declare His virtues, who had called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
We have a parish prayer group and a youth band that likes singing that “chosen generation” verse. Amen!
That Bible verse describes who you are: there is a ministry for each all the baptized to be what this verse so says. Some call it lay ministry, but it could just be called “the Christian believers calling.”
When the parish asks for help or for lay ministry assistance, this is part of that calling of being “priest” (or “prophet” or “king”). There is a huge demand for lay people to step up to the plate and assist the parish staff in carrying out the parish mission. The clergy are few and staff (personnel) are limited, so it is the duty of the parishioners to be the busy ones and responsible ones to get the community life going.
The home life of the parishioners is important place to start. For families and marriages, The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#902) mentions that parents play a special role as ‘priests’ in passing on The Faith to their children. If one is single, then you might be the one that has the time for service or just to run some errands for the parish (like delivering food), or in teaching a catechism class, or in singing in the choir, or in going out to the community with an evangelism team. You can come and pray at Holy Hours or Masses for the good of the parish (prayer ministry is vital!).
Last year a Catholic author wrote on the subject. His name was Jean-Piere Torrell. His big book was called: “Priestly People, A Baptismal Priesthood and Priestly Ministry.” It is sold by Paulist Press. It is a good read.
So was a book the year before called “Forming Intentional Disciples” by Sherry Weddell.