Monday, November 23, 2009

Our Lady of Lourdes, October 24 (Thank you)

This was my homily on Saturday 24 October 2009 at Our Lady of Lourdes, West Orange. This homily includes my gratitude to Lourdes people and staff for three wonderful years.

(Mass for 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Gospel, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me" (Mark 10:46-52)

About three years ago – in June of 2006 – I arrived at Our Lady of Lourdes. And, in October of 2006, I fell off my mountain bike making what should have been a very routine stop at a traffic light. What you’re NOT supposed to do – while riding a bicycle – is get your feet stuck in the pedals. What you’re supposed to do is put your feet on the ground before you stop.

Do not try this at home.

This turned out to be a minor fracture – a not very serious break – in a bone of my left arm near the elbow, a bone called the coronoid process. And, while I received an encouraging diagnosis from the first doctor, he only told me a few words of instruction … “no heavy lifting, see me in 3 weeks.”

Many people would have been fine with this short statement. I was not. I wanted a second opinion

And, the second doctor gave me the “health care reform” on elbow that I wanted. That is, he did not just tell me …he showed me … showed me by:

 moving my arm around
 moving his arm around
 telling me about the bone in the elbow and even giving me a little homework.

This was not homework that involved exercise, but rather an article in an Orthopedics / Sports Medicine journal. I thought, "hey, Doc, who is supposed to be reading medical journals? You, right?"

Anyway, the article was about a baseball catcher who had recovered from a similar injury. This article – in which I could picture a real person who was now nailing runners stealing 2nd base – was another way of showing me rather than just telling me.

I wanted more detail; I wanted to be shown.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Bartimaeus is the beggar on the side of the road, the road to Jericho, he is the beggar on the side of the road who also wants a second opinion. He wants a second opinion from the Lord.

In the first opinion, Bartimaeus is censured and reprimanded. The crowd silences Bartimaeus. Jesus, on the other hand, offers Bartimaeus a second opinion and welcomes him with the words, “what do you want me to do for you?”

By the way, this interview between Bartimaeus & Jesus begins the same way in which the interview began between the brothers James and John in last week’s Gospel. (Mark 10:35-45)

In last week’s Gospel, the brothers James and John go in for an interview looking for seats at Jesus’s right and left in the new Kingdom. And, all they want is to be told – to be promised – that after Election Day they will have important cabinet positions, guaranteed seats in first class.

All they want is to be told.

However, Jesus turns the tables on them – with a second opinion – a second opinion that informs them of their discipleship and relationship to Christ.

Jesus’s second opinion paints a picture – shows them – the suffering they will endure – the suffering we all endure as part of our redemption. It is not that the Lord wants us to suffer but that we are invited to participate in the sacrifice of the Cross when we endure pain or rejection and when we try to forgive each other’s trespasses as God has forgiven us.

In the second opinion, Jesus asks James and John, can you drink the cup that I will drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I will be baptized? (Mark 10:38)

Bartimaeus, on the other hand, comes to Christ with humility with poverty, with faith and he is shown the way, he is not merely told the way . Bartimaeus – unlike James and John – is willing to accept what the Lord offers. After receiving his sight, he becomes a disciple.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

When I fell off my bicycle, I had no idea whether this was a small fracture, sprain, or what. I was only uncomfortable and wanted to get checked out.

On my way, I stopped at one of the firehouses of the West Orange Fire Department where I had just become a chaplain. I stopped at the firehouse – Engine 2 near Washington and Main, across from Washington School.

Recognizing that I had not been here in West Orange for very long, I wondered about the future consequences of asking for this type of help now…

Is my injury really worth of attention?

That was the first question.

And, once everyone found about this, would this become – shall we say – a source of humor?

That was second question.

Of course, the answer was YES to both questions. I was treated with compassion by the on-duty tour; and I was often reminded about this incident if I should mention any form of transportation that involved balance or coordination.

I’m grateful to the Fire Department for getting me to St. Barnabas Hospital that day and to Monsignor Petrillo for getting me home.

I will always be grateful to so many of you who welcomed here to West Orange … not only by getting me back out of the E.R. -- but also – in a way – getting me out the seminary safely -- and continuing my education here about what it means to be a parish priest. By your dedication and love, you have helped prepare me for service and ministry for the rest of my life.

I’m grateful to many people here who prepare our church and chapel for Mass, who prepare our music and liturgy. This would include – but not be limited to - Deacon Ernesto Abad for his leadership of our prayer group, CFM, and other ministries… to Mary Beth Bawarshi and Linda Chapman for our music and choir, to our beloved and late Sister Ann Sweeney who taught me a few things – and also gave me a few articles to read – about religious education …and to Eileen Morgan who has continued her wonderful work.

I’m grateful to our pastor, Monsignor Petrillo for his generous leadership and consistent example to me. He has shared his priesthood and insights with me and helped me to realize that you – the people of Our Lady of Lourdes – matter most in all we do.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Our Lord gives a second opinion the blind man in the Gospel – a second opinion to the man who is rejected, spurned by the crowd, the crowd who tries to silence him

Who – or what – is the crowd or crowdedness sin our lives which keep us from Christ…

 our faults ? – do we expect never to fall … (to fall off a bicycle) or to fall into temptation …. Is not our life a calling to get up with God’s grace when we do fall…and to seek the help which is reasonably offered to us?

 our sadness, fear? Do we endeavor to smile, to be cheerful ...even when we might be anxious inside?

 our need for appreciation. It is good to be affirmed, appreciated ..but we are also called to do our best even when this does not happen.

All of these things – our faults/sins ..our sadness / our need for appreciation – can be the crowd which keeps us from the Lord.

Rather we are called to see what has been see the love which the Father has bestowed on us in Christ and to share that love with each as you have with me.


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