Year A Ordinary 12
Jer 20:10-13, Rom 5:12-15, Matt 10:26-33
Today is my last Sunday with all you beautiful people. I have 8am Mass here tomorrow morning and then on Tue you all will receive an upgrade when Fr. Burkemper arrives. Even though it has only been a short time, the embrace I and my family have received here is unforgettable, and I know you’ll extend the same love to Fr. Burkemper when he arrives. Trust me, it’s a great gift to priests when the laity support us and care for us. Priests have beautiful lives and are very happy, but there are times when the job is overwhelmingly difficult and heartbreaking, it is a spiritual mercy when you treat them as well as you all do, and God sees, and he smiles on Holy Infant.
Now, that said, at least one of you has accused me of abandoning you and going off to Epiphany. Believe me, I tried to get Fr Stanger transferred so I could take over as pastor. I offered bribes, I complained, I insinuated to the Archbishop that perhaps it was time for a new priest to take over here. All to no avail. But we’ll always have that time when I insisted I would beat you all in the Shamrock Shuffle and then hurt myself, or how I made not one, not two, but three people on separate occasions faint during Mass with the intensity of my homiletic delivery, and that time the 8th graders informed me that I look like Harry Potter.
The time was short, but the connections were real, and I will miss it here.
Life is full of uncertainty, isn’t it? I still remember, back when I was an Anglican pastor, telling my parish council that I was going to convert to Catholicism, full well knowing that they might fire me on the spot, and that I would be leaving my job, my home, my ministry, and coming to St. Louis with no clue what the future held. I’m not alone in having endured uncertain moments like this, and I assume that all of us have something that at some point has kept us awake at night: the big test at school, what high school to go to, what college to go to, how to raise your children and not mess them up forever, how to provide for your family, how to love your spouse when it seems so hard, how to prepare for death…
Sometimes the ripple of these moments brings about uncertainty or even fear. Fear makes us do silly things. We step forward when we should stay put, stay put when it’s time to make a change. We might lie or cheat to save face or avoid a difficult conversation. Fear can make us sin, because often sin is the easy way out, it’s a denial of reality, an avoidance technique for that which has us tangled up in knots. Fear makes us settle for less, because not knowing what’s over the next horizon is paralyzing. Fear of growing old and fear of death has spawned an entire industry of sports cars, cosmetics, plastic surgery, and dietary supplements to make us forever young. The most common side effect of fear is that we become something other than what we are. By that I mean we begin to live in such a way that we aren’t boldly seeking heaven because it seems too grandiose a dream. We draw back and fail to fulfill the great destiny that God has planned for each one of us.
If fear is slowing you down, or taking you away from your true self, you aren’t alone. Our Lord specifically addresses this with his disciples, saying, “Fear no one.” And again, “Do not be afraid.” These early followers of Jesus faced tremendous pressure. They were mocked, physically threatened, never sure where their next meal would come from, never sure where they would be living next. But the connection they had with the Body of Christ overcame all fear.
When life throws us change, forces us to say our goodbyes, be reminded that the communion of the Body of Christ is deeper yet, that God knows the number of hairs on your head, that he has saved us from the fires of hell and will never let us fall if we cling to him. He is the unchanging God, the eternal Trinity, the one we run to when we aren’t sure what the future has in store, and as each of us runs to him we find that, because we are closer to him, we are also close to each other no matter the distance that is seemingly in between.
O God, draw us ever further into your sacred heart.