Popular Posts

Monday, October 5, 2015

Trying to be a Good Samaritan

This is my homily for the Seminary Mass on Monday.

They always hung around at the top of the escalator coming up from the Metro station.  And I always felt guilty when I walked by them.

But I’m ahead of myself.  I was ten years ordained (twenty-five years ago) and in graduate school at Catholic university.  And as those who are writing  a thesis or a dissertation will tell you, it is an all consuming work.  You tend to lock yourself in a room or the stacks of the library for seemingly days at a time.  It is profoundly unhealthy.

So, on the advice of my spiritual director, I took off Saturday mornings.  I would get on the Red Line and go down to Union Station for breakfast, buy a Washington Post and think neither about Liturgy nor Theology nor Neophyte Vesture while I ate an obscenely large breakfast.  It was great fun.

Except for the escalator.  For, when you emerged from the Metro all the pan-handlers of Washington D.C. would gather ‘round and you had no choice but to pass through their midst.  They were aggressive, too.  Grabbing and poking so much I was afraid for the contents of my pockets.

But I was also afraid for my soul, ‘cause I’d heard todays Gospel too many times, and I didn’t want to be that priest rushing off to his big breakfast while the half-dead beggar was screaming my name.

So, at first, I would take out five one-dollar bills and fold them tightly (so they looked like tens) and I would distribute them like a prince passings amongst his serfs.  But then I worried that five bucks wasn’t much, (it was a drop in the bucket) plus they might well well spend it on drugs or drink, as on food.

So I went to MacDonalds and got five five-dollar gift certificates, and I started to hand those out as I ran the gauntlet of the forgotten.  But then I heard from Mitch Snyder (who ran the local shelter) that some of the guys would sell the five-dollar Macdonald certificates for  two dollars cash, which they’d use on drugs.

So I went to an old and wise priest I knew, and told him I was so frustrated I was thinking of staying home on Saturdays and working on my dissertation.  At which he asked simply, “You’re going to breakfast?”  “Yes,” I said.  “Well why don’t you invite one of them to breakfast?”

Amazing.  I did.  And I met some of the most interesting people I have ever known.  Tom was a physicist who now lived underneath the bridge by the tracks.  In his late twenties he had started seeing things and now he would get physically ill when he slept inside a building too long.  Then there was Gerry, who had been in Seminary and later fell into a bottle, which led him all kinds of bad places.  And there were so many more whose names I have forgotten, but not their faces and not the beauty of their souls.  Their suffering souls.  Stripped and beaten and left for half-dead by the exigencies of life.  

They wait for us.  Sometimes in the old lady at Saint Patrick’s Manor whom no one else will listen to.  And you sit and hold her hand.  Sometimes in the seminarian down the hall who’s so lonely he cries himself to sleep.  And you invite him to the common room for a drink.  Sometimes in the guy at the stoplight with the cardboard sign, or the kid who slept on Tremont street last night because his father beats him up or the druggie, the smelly people and the ones no one else will love.

But behind each of their faces is Christ.  Waiting for us as really as he does in that tabernacle.  And whatever we do for the least of them…

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Please Pray for the Synod on the Family

On Sunday, I am privileged once again to celebrate Mass at Notre Dame Long Term Care facility in Worcester.   Here is the homily I preached, asking all the residents to join you and me in praying for the Synod on the Family.

Did you see Pope Francis on T.V. when he came to visit the United States last week.  You should have seen how excited all the young men from our Seminary in Boston were to see the Pope.  We went down to Washington D.C. to see him and some of them got very close to him as he was walking down the aisle at the National Shrine.

And today the Pope is back in Rome, pressing over the first day of the Synod on the Family.  He has called several hundred Bishops and all kinds of experts to discuss the challenges to the Family in our day and age.  

You know the importance of the family for living out God’s call to love.  The love so many of you showed as a mother or a father lives on in your sons and daughters.   The faith you passed on to them and the lessons you taught them have made the world a better place and made your children more holy, cooperators with God in bringing love to all who need it.

You know what it is like for a bride or groom to leave their father and mother
and cling to their spouse that the two of them might become one flesh.

You know what it is like to be a “wife…like a fruitful vine…your children like olive plants around your table.”

You know what it is like to “see your children's children.”

So pray for the Pope and all those Bishops over the next few weeks, that they may appreciate and protect and strengthen those values which you have lived for most of your lives.  Pray also for all married couples, young and old, that God’s love for us may shine forth in them, just as it has in you and your families for all these many years.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Hope in the midst of the Diaspora

I preached the following short homily on the idea of "hope in the midst of a diaspora" during Mass at Notre Dame Long Term Healthcare in Worcester on Saturday.

In these days we have been hearing about the terrible tragedy of the diaspora in ancient Israel.  The word comes from the Greek, as some of you know, the dias-pora, or the scattering of the Jewish people all over the place by Nebuchadnezzar after he conquered ancient Israel.

It was a terrible disaster because Nebuchadnezzar purposely broke up families and sent mothers and fathers hundreds of miles away from their children and sometimes even away from each other.  That’s why, all last week, you heard about crying for Jerusalem, longing for Jerusalem…just wanting to go home!

When we get older, one of the things our hearts ache for the most is to go home.  We long to be younger and for things to be the way they used to be.  

It must be something like the way all those refugees from Syria feel.  Or the people fleeing Afghanistan or all those families in boats trying to escape Northern Africa.

But God has a message for them and for us.  You heard him, speaking through he prophet Baruch: “Fear not, my children; call out to God!  He who brought this upon you will remember you…”  ‘He will bring you enduring joy.”

So let us trust, whenever we are afraid or lost or long for things to be the way they used to be, let us trust in God.  For the God who brought us the joys of our youth is the same God who is with us still.  And he has joys in store for us the likes of which we cannot even imagine!

Deacon Kevin Staley-Joyce Ordained

Our own Kevin Staley-Joyce was ordained to the Diaconate in Saint Peter's Basilica this week.  Deacon Kevin is a seminarian for Boston at the North American College for the Archdiocese of Boston.  All of his brother seminarians at Saint John's send him their prayers and congratulations!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Meeting of the SJS Board of Trustees

Yesterday was the Fall meeting of the Board of Trustees here at the Seminary.  Members met for three hours, then joined us for Holy Hour and dinner.  We are very grateful to these generous men and women who support SJS with their time, their expertise and their prayers.  God bless them all!

Monday, September 28, 2015

SJS by night

Here are a couple of great photos of Saint John's in the evening light taken by seminarian Paul Wargovich.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Leading the Stranger Home...

Monday of the Twenty-Sixth Week of the Year

There are few frights as deep as when you are the stranger, an alien in a hostile land.  I was once lost in a little town in the West Bank. It was the most lost I have ever been.  Separated from my seminarian brothers, I tried to ask where I was, but no one understood me.  I tried to look at the signs, but they were just a bunch of squiggly lines.  At one point I stood there and just wanted to cry like a little lost child.

The Syrian refugee on the border with Hungary, the Afghan in downtown London or the Latin American in a small Mid-Western town know what that feels like every day.  The fright, the pure panic when you don’t know the language, the food or the customs.  And even worse, when they yell at you to go home.

Perhaps that is why God commanded the Israelites: 

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:33-34.)

We were strangers in the land of Egypt and in the diaspora, when we, the followers of the one true God, were scattered like seeds at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar.  

But no matter the cause of the exile, God always promises to lead us home, even if it takes a very long time.  Thus from Zechariah we hear of old men and women, hobbling along with canes, still dreaming of the Jerusalem they knew in their youth, a city whose streets will once again be filled with boys and girls playing and singing for joy.

He knows that God has promised and will make it so:

Lo, I will rescue my people…
I will bring them back to dwell within Jerusalem.
They shall be my people, and I will be their God…

God’s promise is given to every stranger, every exile and each one of us when we are lost.  Lost in lands of selfishness and sin, lost in arid deserts of frustration and hurt, and lost on strange by-ways when we choose the wrong paths.

Be not afraid!  For the Father of the prodigal still looks for us on the road, the Good Shepherd seeks us out and the Heavenly Jerusalem, no matter how far away we wander, is always our ultimate home.