Sunday, October 30, 2016

A Homily on Loving...

Here is my homily for Monday.

I will never forget Anna. She sat in the corner of the main room of the first nursing home I ever visited. I was in College and had far more hair and far less self-confidence. But I was stubbornly determined I was going to love her.

So the first time I knelt beside her wheel chair I gently took her hand in mine, I looked into her eyes and said with a gentle, loving voice, “Good morning, Anna!” To which she responded with an expletive not suitable to a 7am Mass in a Seminary. In fact, she let loose with a whole string of expletives, some of which I had never heard before.

I was shocked and crushed and afraid.

I expected an old lady, like the lovely old ladies I had seen in the movies and on T.V. to be sweet and grateful and sharing their famous old recipes for chocolate chip cookies. But this Grandma Moses had a mouth on her like Tupac Shakur and the temperament 

of a mad dog.

So, the next week I approached with trepidation. Knelt and looked (I have given up on the hand holding) and elicited the same response with the same string of expletives never stopping until I got half-way across the room.

Week three, after consulting with my pastoral supervisor, I returned to Anna and just stood there without the kneeling. Eventually she looked up, recognized me, and with what I swear was a slight grin, launched into the string of expletives, which by now, I knew by heart.

The next week, out of stubbornness if nothing else, I returned with a hearty “Good morning, Anna! I’ve been looking forward to seeing you!” To which she smiled and said, “Oh, what a week I’ve had!” And began a long lament of what its like to be the sick old lady in the wheelchair in the corner of the nursing home.

Anna was one of the best professors I have ever had. For she taught me that love is not what you read on a Hallmark Card or watch on Netflix. Love is not what you give so you get something back.

Love is giving, emptying, sacrificing. It is patient, kind and puts on no airs. Love is your heart breaking and your patience straining and still hanging in there. Love is never giving up. Love is forgetting yourself and your needs and wants and desires and just wanting the best for the other. Love is hanging there by the nails they have beaten into your wrists, looking down at them and saying “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.”

God is love. So, “when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.” And you will know love.