Saturday, July 01, 2006

Installation as new pastor

The first reading says
God hates suffering and death;
and yet, there is so much of it.
How can God put up with it all?

Heaven does not respond as we want:
Lightning bolts
do not come down on the evil-doers;
God does not take control
and force people to be good.

Instead, note how God does respond:
He comes!
God became man, like us—but without sin.

God came and walked among us;
and to those who were ready;
those who discovered all other remedies fail—
like the woman in the Gospel,
like the family whose daughter died—
they discovered
the one healing Christ can give
that’s worth having.

Jesus can give physical healing;
he gave it to that woman, and to that child.
But is that really the healing that mattered?
The physical healing
they received served as a vehicle,
and a confirmation,
of the deeper healing they needed:
the discovery of Jesus
as the one, true Source of Life!

If we define happiness
as an absence of hardship;
if we measure success
by what we gain in this life,
we are all doomed to fail—
for we shall, in the end, lose everything:
like the woman with the hemorrhage;
like the family whose daughter died.

So—what healing did they receive?
Yes, health and a child restored—
but that’s not it.
They discovered the power of Jesus—
in their suffering:
That’s the Gift they need never lose!

The woman in the Gospel
came to the point where nothing
would stop her from seizing hold of that Life!
Are you and I at that point?

How many of us let so many dumb things
get in the way of our relationship with the Lord?

You and I are confronted
with the uncertainty of things in a less severe way:
Today begins a new, uncertain chapter
in the story of our Catholic Faith in Piqua.

If we wish, you and I can find
much to discourage us:
Not enough priests;
not enough people practicing their faith.
The bills our parishes face weigh heavier;
our parishioners, facing uncertain times,
are stretched and strained.

So many problems. So much change.
And more is coming!
Father Tom and I have spent a lot time
the past few months,
with the help of folks from both parishes,
trying to find the best steps forward:
not pain-free; but perhaps,
without more than necessary.

I confess, I have found it a distraction.
So many other things I wanted to work on.
But perhaps I’m missing the point.

St. Paul said in the second reading that Christ,
in becoming poor, made us rich:
Obviously, this isn’t about material wealth—
that wealth never lasts!
But about the wealth
of having Christ, our true Treasure.

So often, we have to become poor
in order to discover this wealth.
And if there are things you and I
are experiencing as loss,
in all the transition and change
that comes now upon us—
I have to ask:
how might we discover, in all this,
the true riches
of possessing Christ, and Christ alone?

There is no purpose to this Parish,
St. Boniface Parish,
our school, all our endeavors—
unless we possess the riches of Christ himself,
and distribute that Treasure, freely,
to this Piqua community!

We face change; and there will be pain.
Will we focus on that—
or will we let go of everything,
that we might possess Christ, and him alone,
as the one Gift that no one can take away?

There are divisions in our community—
between the parishes—
that you and I must break down.
The more you and I can forgive,
heal past wounds,
let go of the past, and step out in faith,
in how we deal
in our own, Catholic community…

Then how much more will we, Catholics,
be a beacon of healing, a light of faith,
to this larger community
that needs Christ so badly?

One obvious thing: we need more priests.
I’m asking you to pray—every day—
for more priests.

At grace before meals,
offer this five-word prayer:
"Please send us more priests!"

And I’m asking you to live that prayer:
encourage sons, grandsons,
nephews, brothers, uncles, friends—to be priests.

You want examples?
Make what you want of me;
but consider Father Tom.

In the past year,
Father Tom has been
a rock of wisdom and patience.
I am not so patient,
and I am often slow
to see the wisdom others offer.

He has been patient; and, on many things,
I’ve come around.
Father Tom need not stay with us;
but he chooses to do so!
Father Tom is literally giving his life to us.
What more can we ask?

Father Boeke has shown his love for God’s people,
in gentle but profound ways.

Father Caserta—who can’t be here because
someone had to offer
the 4 o’clock Mass at St. Boniface—
has shown exactly the same quality.

Young men, you wonder
if you find meaning and joy
in being a priest?
Ask Father Boeke! Ask Father Caserta!

Father Boeke knows
I’m going to say this next part.
After so many years of service,
he decided, some time back,
that the time had come to move to Carthagena.

Father Tom and I tried to talk him out of it.
But we said: if this is your decision,
then we want to support you.

And—the parish will want
to show it’s love for you!
Father Boeke, as you can imagine,
kind of shrugged:
"I don’t need any recognition."

And I said: "Oh no; it will happen!"
and I added,
"you know you have to obey the pastor!"

So, in three weeks, on Saturday, July 22,
we’ll have a celebration for Fr. Boeke.

So…grateful for the priests we have,
we need more:
and you and I can make that happen
with prayer and work.

In the meantime,
I will need your help in other ways.
As change comes—as it will—please be patient.
Please be flexible; please give your parish—
and it is your parish, I’m only the pastor—
your full support.

In the weeks ahead,
I will be asking you directly
for various kinds of help.

I don’t know how to read our situation.
Are we rich or poor?
Are our times the best or worst,
or something in between?
Is it harder to be a faithful Catholic today—
or is it clearer what that really means?
I don’t know.

But this I know—and you too:
All we need, we have, in Jesus Christ!
Whatever we lose, or have to sacrifice,
in our two parishes,
here in the Eucharist,
we bring those sacrifices,
and join them to His.

Here is our mercy, our healing, our food—
Jesus is our health, our wealth;
Jesus Christ is our life…
that no one can take away.


Anonymous said...

Bravo, bravo!

Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, C.PP.S. said...

I wish I could be there to help. Alas, I cannot find the help I need with these 6000 families. I was good to meet you in DC. Thanks for the lift to the airport

Tim Lang said...

You and your flock are in my prayers tonight.