Fr. Tim’s Homily for September 17, 2017

image24th Sunday in Ordinary Time-A

Sirach 27: 30-28: 7

Romans 14: 7-9 

Matthew 18: 21-35

“The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger and rich in compassion.”

That was the response to Psalm 103 that we sang today after the first reading.  And it is a very fitting response, full of comfort and full of promise, for this time in our nation.

For decades we had seen the horrors of war portrayed in the movies and on television.  And eventually we began to watch those horrors with a certain detachment as Hollywood turned killings into box office entertainment and cash register receipts.

And, in a way, no wonder.  All those terrible things were happening “over there somewhere.”

That is, until sixteen years ago, 11 September 2001, when the unbelievable happened.  Terror arrived at our doorstep.  America was violated.  And we will never be the same again:  our travel, our security our daily living will never be the same as they were prior to the events of 9/11.

In September 2006, on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, a film was distributed, entitled Saint of 9/11.  It is about the late Father Mychal Judge, the much-loved New York City Fire Department chaplain who was one of the first to die at the World Trade Center.  Debris fell on him as he was ministering to others in the lobby of the North Tower.

A famous photograph shows a dead Father Judge being carried out by firemen and looking, for all the world to see, like a modern Pieta.

Who was this man?  Mychal Judge was born in Brooklyn on 11 May 1933, the son of Irish immigrants.  He lost his father when he was only six years old and missed him terribly.

He entered the Franciscans and was ordained a priest in 1961 and served in several parishes.

In 1992 he was named the chaplain to the New York City Fire Department.  “I always wanted to be a priest or a fireman,” he said at the time.  “Now I’m both!”

He gained the respect of the firefighters of New York City.  He was outgoing, and friendly.  He had the gift of gab and a rollicking sense of humor.  One Franciscan recalled latter that Father Mychal Judge “treated everyone like family.”

About a month before he died, Father Judge had a strong sense from his prayer that his life would soon end.  So he decided to give away his few possessions.  A friend of his received a box full of his books.

When word came that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center Towers on the morning of 11 September, Father Judge went downtown with the other firefighters.

Mayor Guiliani saw him rush by with several of them and grabbed him by the arm.  “Father Mychal, pray for us,” he said.  “I always do!” Father Mychal responded with a nervous smile.

A documentary showed footage of the lobby area inside the first tower.  Father Judge is seen walking by the camera, looking worried and distressed with his lips moving slowly.  Many presumed he was saying the rosary.

Moments later he went to bless the fallen bodies of a firefighter and a woman.  Just as he removed his helmet, steel debris fell on him, striking him on the back of the head and killing him instantly.

That photograph of the firefighters carrying his dead body minutes later to nearby Saint Peter’s Church traveled around the world.  They laid his dead body in front of the altar.  And they covered it with a white alb from the sacristy vestment closet, a symbol of the white garment that he wore at his Baptism when he became a beloved child of God and was promised the gift of eternal life.

Father Mychal Judge was sixty-eight years old at the time of his death.

But it must also be said that this man of many good deeds was not without his struggles.  He had to battle daily with his same-sex attraction and with his alcoholism.

He kept his vows and remained celibate.  But it was a constant struggle for him.  In the early days of AIDS, when even the medical personnel were fearful of any contact, Father Judge ministered to the dying men at New York’s Saint Vincent’s Hospital.  And this was heroic and virtuous.

As to his alcoholism, at the time of his death he had been sober for twenty-three years.  And he had saved countless people by taking them to A.A., the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.  One man remembers living in a box until Father Judge found and rescued him.  This too was heroic and virtuous.

Father Judge told one of his friends that when he got up in the morning, he allowed himself “two minutes for a private pity party to feel sorry for myself.”  After that, he went to work, helping and serving whomever he met.

Father Judge, a man with his own struggles, gave his life in witness to Gospel love:  “There is no greater love than this:  to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” [John 15: 13] – as Jesus did for us.

Father Mychal Judge left us this prayer:  “Lord, take me where you want me to go.  Let me meet whom you want me to meet.  Tell me what you want me to say.  And keep me out of your way.”

Our post-9/11 world has changed so much during these last sixteen years.  Still, we need to remember that “the Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger and rich in compassion.”

God is faithful to us and asks us, with His grace, to do our part, right where we are, to make this world a better place:

–a little kinder

–a little more merciful

–a little slower to anger

–and a little richer in compassion.

Father Mychal Judge’s prayer is a fitting one for us to conclude with today and to live by every day:  “Lord, take me where you want me to go.  Let me meet whom you want me to meet.  Tell me what you want me to say.  And keep me out of your way.”  Amen.

Fr. Tim’s Homily for September 10, 2017

image23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time-A

Ezekiel 33: 7-9

Romans 13: 8-10 

Matthew 18: 15-20

She never intended to hurt anyone.  At least that is what Alice said, after she had put together a committee of people from the parish, and had left off Anne’s name.

Anne was hurt.  When this was told to Alice, Alice admitted that, well, she really did do it on purpose.  Alice said, “Everybody is sick and tired of Anne lording it over them and bossing them around.  So I took it upon myself to have Anne sit this one out.”

And some people responded, “Everybody feels that way?  Why, Anne is someone perfectly suited to this new committee.  Look at how she gets things done.”

Anne was hurt at being left out and she did what, I suppose, a lot of us do when we are feeling wounded.   She withdrew from activities.  She began talking to her friends about how she had been hurt by Alice.  Then she began talking with anyone who would listen about how she had been hurt by Alice.

Anne was seething inside and she hoped that Alice’s project would fail miserably.

Before long, the parish was split into two camps:  those who supported Alice who was trying to bring about some new leadership in the parish and some more vitality;  and those who were with Anne, who for some twenty years had worked hard in the parish – even harder than most other people.

They each had their supporters.  Alice would point out to her people, “Look at Anne.  She is opposing all that is good for our parish.”  And Anne would claim that “Alice is ruining our parish.”

That is where things were.  Then they were both in church on Sunday for Mass and the Gospel that we just heard was read.  Anne listened to that Gospel and she felt that she was being personally addressed.

Anne had been hurt by Alice and everybody agreed.  At least, all of Anne’s friends agreed that she had been hurt by Alice.  But Anne realized that there was one thing that she had never done.  She had talked with so many people about Alice, but she had never talked with Alice.

Jesus says in today’s Gospel:  “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.  If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.”

Anne was afraid.  What if Alice brushed her off?  But she prayed for courage, and after Mass she met Alice at the door of the church and asked if they could go for coffee.  And Alice agreed.

Over coffee Anne told Alice how sorry she was that she had hurt her by the things that she had said and done.  And Alice apologized to Anne for what she had said and done to hurt her.  And they were reconciled.

Now, not every story of hurt ends this way.  And Jesus acknowledges this in today’s Gospel as it continues.  You can go to someone:  they may listen to you, or they may not.  Anne went to Alice:  Alice could choose to meet with Anne, or not.

But the important thing is not that Anne was successful in bringing about reconciliation.  The important thing is that Anne was faithful to the Gospel.  She did what Jesus asked her to do.  She became a minister of reconciliation.  Anne took the first step, no matter how it would be received by Alice.  And this is a very difficult thing to do.

When there is conflict in our lives – and there will be from time to time;  this is part of the human condition – what do we do about it? 

–We may ignore the hurt and pretend it is not there.

–We may let that hurt simmer and regularly “stir the pot” of resentment.

–We may go out and talk with everybody else about how we have been treated.

–We may hope that the other person fails miserably – and even add a bit of sabotage to the mix.

–We may become passively aggressive.

–We may even just disappear into the sunset, never to be seen again.

But none of this is what Jesus tells us that we should do.  Jesus says that we should take the initiative and go to the person who has sinned against us, whether we are well-received or not.  He tells us to be ministers of reconciliation, imitating what God does for us all of the time.

For you and I are sinners and we each bear responsibility for putting Jesus on the cross.  And what did He do for us?  “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” [Romans 5: 8].  Even while we were still sinners, Jesus took the initiative and died for us to reconcile us to one another and to the Father.

That is the example that Jesus wants us to follow:  to be ministers of reconciliation.  And when we do so, it is only a pale reflection of what God does for us all the time.  But in our trying to do as Jesus asks and does, we help to make our little part of this world a little corner of heaven.

Jesus finishes the Gospel today with a line that we all know by heart.  He says, “Amen, I say to you, where two or three are gathered in my name” – or we might even say, “Where two or three are brought back together again in my name” – “there am I in the midst of them.”

         My brothers and sisters in Christ, I wish you God’s peace and God’s grace to be ministers of reconciliation.

St. Joseph Parish School News

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