19 – 26 May 2010 (Hinche & Port au Prince, Haiti). We celebrated the liturgy and prayed each day of our trip. These are the homilies from the trip.
Our “party of five”: Dave Peterson, Campus Ministry / Tom Russomanno, DOVE Asst Director, Campus Ministry / Cynthia Manns, Spiritual Director, Campus Ministry / Tom Cabretta, Seton Hall Sophomore / Father Jim Ferry, chaplain.
This trip to Haiti is one of the the international Service projects of DOVE, Division of Volunteer Efforts, Campus Ministry at Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey, USA.
> > > [Thu. 20 May 2010], “Layers”
+ John 17:20-26 (Thursday of 7th week of Easter, for our group at Maison Fortune, Hinche, Central Plateau, Haiti)
This is my homily for Thursday Mass.
[__01.] When I was in high school, one summer, I took a swimming and lifesaving class, a class which is necessary to become a lifeguard. One day, we were instructed to dress in layers for a specific exercise in the pool.
Do not try this at home.
Or, perhaps, you have already done it, if you took such a class.
The objective was for the students (i.e., my classmates and me) to learn how to use our own clothes to make a flotation device. Personally, I’d rather have a raft or a Coast Guard helicopter rescue me from the waves, but you do what you have to do.
That morning, we put on our bathing suits and – then, on top of our bathing suits we put our regular clothes, jeans and long sleeve shirts and shoes too.
Then, we are told to jump into nine feet of water in the deep end of the pool. We have to take our shoes off first and let them go.
Then, you remove your shirt, your socks, your jeans and somehow tie knots in the leg and blow air into them and you float.
[__02.] We float, we survive in this exercise because of what we removed and what we did with the layers that were otherwise completely soaked and burdensome.
If we had kept all that stuff on, it would have just weighed us down …and caused us to drown.
[__03.] I don’t know about you – but I was dressed in many layers leaving NJ and NY to fly to Port au Prince. I did not want to be cold in the air conditioning of the aircraft.
However, those layers did me absolutely no good, plunging into the deep end of immigration, customs and baggage claim at the airport.
It is also in layers that we traveled with our bags, bringing in more articles than we will take home.
[__04.] In our meeting about two weeks ago, Michelle [Michelle Peterson, Seton Hall DOVE Director] encouraged us to view our journey here as a retreat, a spiritual retreat and journey with the boys and girls of Maison Fortune (www.maisonfortune.org), and the Azeal, the children and adults taken in by the Missionaries of Charity at the Azeal home.
Such a journey, such a retreat involves the removal of layers.
This does not mean that we will immediately learn new lifesaving techniques to rescue the people of Haiti from the depths, from the waves, or from poverty and crisis.
I don’t want to minimize or diminish the importance of our visit here. We can touch others by our cheerfulness, our smiles, our enthusiasm, our laughter, our listening … even if our proficient listening in Creole might be limited in a technical sense.
Yet, in coming to Hinche and Port au Prince, we will not necessarily witness material changes ourselves.
However, in coming here, we remove our layers not to effect an immediate rescue but also to remove our layers so that you and I might be touched and changed by the experience …so that we will float and survive with the help of God … even if we are not dry the entire the time. [__end__]
> > > [Fri. 21 May 2010], “Lifting”
+ John 21:15-19 (Friday of 7th week of Easter, with our group at Maison Fortune, Hinche, Central Plateau, Haiti)
This is my homily for Friday Mass.
[__01.] We have all heard the instruction that if you are going to lift something …use your whole body.
If we were to lift something with only our arms, we could strain our arms. If we were to lift and use our backs, we would throw our backs out.
We have all done this.
If you or I were going to lift something, you or I would be best off using our whole body in order to lift it.
And, the same is true in our experience at Maison Fortune and at the Azeal, to use our whole body, all of our strength.
Does not Jesus remind his disciples of the first and second commandments, also referred to as the Shema Israel (“Hear O Israel”in the Books of Moses):
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength”
And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:28-30; Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
[__02.] Here at Maison Fortune and at the Azeal, we need to use our whole body in order to enter into the experience and the lives of young brothers and sisters here.
We need to use our whole bodies, sometimes literally, to lift them, or to sit down on the ground with them, or to play soccer or basketball with them.
We also need our whole body to listen to them …
And, this is also the lesson for Peter the Apostle in this particular reading from the Gospel of St. John, chapter 21.
[__03.] Peter is the one who runs away, runs away from the cross, runs away when Jesus is arrested.
And, Peter seeks an easy way out… taking out his sword to strike the guard’s ear in the Garden of Gethsemane. (cf., John 18:10)
But, more than that will be required of Saint Peter …
His whole body and soul will be involved.
In this Gospel reading, Jesus tells Peter that he will suffer a similar fate to that of Jesus himself.
That is, Peter’s whole body is required.
Part of using his whole body is that Peter will be dressed in a way that he would rather not dress, that he will be a led to a place to which he would rather not go. (cf. John 21:18)
[__04.] That is part of making sacrifices in our lives, doing the things that we do not always want to do.
And, in letting others touch our bodies and in letting God use our bodies and our souls and minds to help others who are in need.
[__05.] We also remember that Jesus suffered and died for everyone, suffered and died for the children here and children and people suffering everywhere.
So, that when we suffer with them, we are also imitating Christ on the cross, and lifting his cross with every part of our body. [__end__]
> > > [Sat. 22 May 2010], “Comparisons”
+ John 21:20-25 (Saturday of 7th week of Easter, feast of St. Rita, w/ Missionaries of Charity Hinche, 6:00 a.m. Mass; our group also attended Mass in the sisters’ chapel, Hinche, Central Plateau, Haiti)
[__01.] We could hear today’s Gospel, the conclusion to the Gospel of John, as a prelude to the Sunday Feast of Pentecost.
Today, we hear about jealousy, about envy between Peter the apostle and John the apostle. Peter’s jealousy of John is evident to our Lord. Peter is jealous of John’s gifts in today’s Gospel.
On Pentecost Sunday, we remember that all of us receive gifts from God, the gift of the Holy Spirit. However, this gift is manifested in unique ways, in unique talents. And, we are sometimes very aware of this differences.
We may see the differences as deficiencies in ourselves and wish for more. In some cases, we are right to strive for more… to do our best. However, we are also called to remember that God made each of us good and in his image.
Observing these gifts and identifying them is part of our redemption. Excessive comparison about them, however, can lead to jealousy and envy. It can be part of our destruction.
[__02.] Both Peter and John have been in Jesus’ inner circle. Peter, in particular, has not learned that his unique gifts are not diminished by the esteem shown for another.
All of us have been guilty, at one time or another, of comparing ourselves to others.
We have compared ourselves to the talents of others, to the sacrifices of others.
And, we also observe that others receive rewards – or obtain recognition - that we do not receive,
And, while it is OK to meditate on our hurts to ask for the Lord’s help, we are also called to remember that Jesus gives his Holy Spirit to all of us.
Not necessarily to speak in tongues in exactly the same way as the ancient disciples of the Mediterranean,
Yet, we are called to use our unique talents, in a unique way to reach out to those who need us. [__end__]
> > > [Sun. 23 May 2010], “Pentecost”
Acts 2:1-11; + John 20:19-23 (Pentecost Sunday Mass with the children of Maison Fortune, Xaverian Brothers, Jean Louis, plus all expatriate visitors including our group at Maison Fortune, Hinche, Central Plateau, Haiti)
This is my homily for Pentecost Sunday Mass. Jean Louis translated this homily into Creole; I paused after every 2-3 sentences for him to translate.
[__01.] Sometimes, we have to go to the doctor or nurse. And, the doctor wants to know if we are healthy or sick. Do we feel sick. The doctor wants to examine us.
And, we might wonder, “how does the doctor know if we are sick?” One way, one method that the doctor uses to see if we are sick is to look out our mouths, our tongues.
The doctor tells you to open your mouth, to stick out your tongue when you come into the office.
[__02.] The tongue is very small but it tells the doctor or the nurse something about the whole body.
Our tongue, our mouth is also what we use to speak, to make words.
And, our words also indicate something about what is going on inside of us, inside of our hearts.
[__03.] For example, if I say, “I am hungry”, it means there is no food inside.
if I say, “I am thirsty”, it means there is no water.
If I say, “I love you”, it means something that I feel inside. Also, I say, “I am angry with you”, or if I say, “I will not share something with you”, it means there is something inside of me too.
[__04.] So, our words, our mouths will tell other people if we are happy or if we are healthy.
And, that is what is happening in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles. The Holy Spirit comes to touch the tongues, to touch the mouths of the disciples of Jesus.
To touch their tongues.
[__05.] And, we believe that when the Holy Spirit touches our tongues and helps us to speak, then the Holy Spirit is also touching and shaping our whole bodies.
To speak words of love, we need the Holy Spirit not just to touch us with the right words that people can hear … but also to touch us with the right thoughts and intentions and affections inside.
[__06.] The Holy Spirit is helping us to speak and to share with each other and to love each other by what we say and do.
The Holy Spirit helps us to share even when we feel selfish or do not want to do it. The Holy Spirit helps us to say, I love you …even to someone who has hurt us.
The Holy Spirit helps us to smile even if we feel sad or lonely.
So, by our mouths and by our tongues – and our whole bodies – we show our love for each other. [__end__]
> > > [Wed. 26 May 2010], “Neighbor or Stranger?”
St. Philip Neri + Mark 10:32-45 . This is my homily for Wednesday Morning Mass, at around 9:20 a.m. on our last morning at in Port au Prince. We stayed overnight 25 May and departed for the airport the following morning, in Delmas 19, Port au Prince at Walls Intl Guest House which has steel gates, 10 foot high cement walls, and armed guards.
[__01.] When we go to a job interview, we see that the interviewer is somehow who is both an ally an opponent. That person is someone we want to win over. However, it is also someone to whom we need to prove ourselves as well.
You might say, the interview is both a “neighbor” and a “stranger” to us.
And, the interviewer also wants to know how you – or I – are going to treat the neighbors and strangers we encounter.
[__02.] The interviewer – I think – really wants to know something which is difficult to measure, quantify and evaluate.
That is, how will you (or I) behave, what will you do when you encounter a neighbor … what will you do when you encounter a stranger?
That is, how will we treat those neighbors with whom we get along and how are we going to treat those with whom we do not get along?
Out in the marketplace, in the world, the interviewer asks certain standard – and somewhat superficial questions – to arrive at this:
• Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
• What are your strengths? weaknesses?
• “What have you done for me lately?”
These are the questions that interviewers of business and “the world” ask us … on the road to a 2nd or 3rd round of interviews and evaluations.
[__03.] Jesus is interviewing James and John, to find out how they will treat neighbors and strangers along the way, and also to ask – each of us – how we will treat the neighbors and strangers we will meet.
Jesus is trying to evaluate them for the executive positions they want in the Kingdom of God.
The brothers, James and John, are attracted to Christ. This is good. They want to be closer to him. This is good.
But, Jesus is not so concerned about what they have already done or said …or proven or not proven.
Jesus is not even concerned about those gaps in our job history… you know those gaps when we did not have a job.
[__04.] Jesus is more concerned about he future. And, this is what he is asking about, regarding James and John.
In the future, “can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” (Mark 10:38)
Are you going to be a neighbor to me? Or, are you going to be a stranger to me?
That is what Jesus is asking. And, Jesus is sending them out into the world, He is sending them out just as he is sending us out.
First, to Port au Prince, to New Jersey, north and south, perhaps to return to Haiti. He is sending us back to school or out after we have finished our schooling, so that we can encounter him wherever we are, to grow closer to Christ as a neighbor in all the ways that we might serve him and find him.
[__05.] Today is also the feast of Philip Neri, a patron saint of priests who invites all of us to consider what we want out of life…
For what type of “position” or “compensation package” are we interviewing or negotiating?
Are we carrying out our service in order to gain some position? Some profit? Or, are we carrying it out in humility?
In one of Augustine’s writings (2nd reading, Office of Readings, 26 May, St. Philip Neri) asks a question about neighbors and strangers.
Who is the stranger and neighbor? Jesus is both the stranger and neighbor because he is the one who comes from on high to become our neighbor out of compassion. Jesus is the stranger, the man lying on the road, left half dead by robbers. This man is treated with contempt by the priest and levite who pass by; Jesus is the man who is rescued by the passing Samaritan who takes care of him and helps him.
And, that body on the ground – Christ – is the whole human race. That person is the whole population of Haiti.
So, when we pick up the stranger on the ground, we make him our neighbor… and we also make Christ our neighbor.
And, we also learn to treat our neighbors not as their sins deserve or for our own advantage… but with mercy and service. [__end__]