June 20, 2021: My Dear Parishioners,
Last week after the 8:30 Mass, someone asked me about a point I had not been explicit in my homily about Mother Teresa. He asked me, "So, what is faith?" That question has been haunting me ever since! I have been thinking I must somehow respond to his concern by answering it outright. And that means I must go straight to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. There, in article 1814 we find this: "Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that He has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because He is truth itself. By faith "man freely commits his entire self to God." For this reason the believer seeks to know and do God's will. "The righteous shall live by faith." Living faith "work(s) through charity."
For Mother Teresa, it is simply this: the complete trust in what God has promised, "I shall never leave you orphans. I shall come to you! I shall remain with you until the end of the world!" Because God has said it, it was enough for Mother Teresa to believe. It was enough for her to entrust the entire work of the new community into His care and not be worried about its success or failure. It was enough for her to ask the Pope for permission to leave her order and to start a brand new community to serve the poorest of the poor without a dime in her pocket. It was enough for her to go out into the streets of the slums of Calcutta every day and pick up the dying, one at a time, and bring them home to care for them as if they had been Christ Himself - completely trusting that God would somehow provide all the food, the medicines, and the supplies needed. In other words, she entrusted her entire existence into God's hand!
If we at St. Agatha's would imitate Mother Teresa's faith, then we should be ok, too! If we would entrust the survival of this parish and the future of our school and the welfare of each family here into God's hand in the exact same way Mother Teresa did with her community, we would not have anything to be worried about! And it is rather simple: we do all we can, and at the end of the day, we cross ourselves and we look at the Crucifix and we say to Him, "Lord, I did what I could. But it's your church and I am sure you will take care of everything! Good night!"
June 13, 2021: My Dear Parishioners,
Something I came across while preparing for homily from Father Julian Carron of Communion Liberation.
THE VACCINE AS PANACEA - Welcome vaccines! Who would not rejoice, after having seen so much suffering, fear, bewilderment and death? However, we cannot ignore what Susanna Tamaro wrote in a “Letter to Baby Jesus” published in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on December 22. “Forgive us for being convinced that the vaccine will be our salvation, because the vaccine is a marvelous, indispensable help, as is the science at the service of humankind, but it will not be able to dispel the fog of our unhappiness. To do this, we will need a new gaze and a purified heart that will dialogue with it.” These words uncover a question we cannot avoid. Is the vaccine enough for answering the questions reawakened by the pandemic? Is this all we need, the eradication of the disease?
And when there is no cure for a disease? A mother whose child suffers from a very grave syndrome wrote, “In this particularly wearying period my son was hospitalized in intensive care, sedated and intubated. In moments like this, I grab onto anything that makes me remember I am looked upon and loved, and so I call and message my friends, read and reread some things, seeking strength. In this pediatric ward the internet and telephone service are very poor and because of Covid restrictions I can’t see anyone, so the things I usually cling to are unavailable. I remember having read a line, one of the many ones written in the newspapers, ‘This past year should be left behind and forgotten. Let’s look ahead; the hope of a vaccine is coming.’ How can anybody think that hope lies entirely in the vaccine? I think of my son: is being healthy what gives us hope? If so, he would be a goner, and yet instead very often he is the one who testifies to me an immensely greater hope. Looking at him and looking at his body makes me conscious of the desire for good that each of us has, the desire to be happy and loved notwithstanding our defects, which are the drama that make us ask, that enable us to ask for and desire for more.”
How can we respond to the abyss that has emerged, but was not caused, by the healthcare emergency? Even before that, what abyss are we talking about? It is the abyss of our own human needs, of the thirst for life we have within. It is also the abyss of the fear of death and pain, which has become more continual, of the anguish of losing life or that life will not be fulfilled definitively. Can the “answers” we have noted fill that abyss?
June 6, 2021: My Dear Parishioners,
As one gets older, one is inclined to think more often about one's own departure from this world and about what one will leave behind. A dear older friend of mine, a great priest who shall remain anonymous, remarked to me poignantly recently, "I think after I am gone, there might be at most two people who would miss me: my own sister and a nun who used to keep house for me. They would miss me in a real deep way." Obviously this dear friend of mine did not think I would be the third one whose life would be affected by his absence from this world! Yes, I am already thinking about my legacy! I remember a quote from Cardinal George before he went to his eternal rewards, "The only thing a person takes with him to the grave is what he has given away." That is truly how I see my legacy should be built: to leave behind me as much as possible all the things I own in the hands of people who need them more than I do now. People give money to worthwhile institutions so that their names might be associated with a good cause, a movement, a lasting presence in the form of a building, an enduring influence through an endowment. Legacies are made into realities also through works of arts and literature, science projects. And these gestures towards future generations are truly laudable and necessary.
I am not asking you to let me help you build your legacies. I am utterly clueless on how to do such a thing. I am only asking you to help me preserve the legacy of those who were here before us at St. Agatha's - the legacy of their faith. I am asking you to help me to preserve this beautiful church made not only of stone and wood and glass, but primarily of sweat and tears and toil - the sweat and tears and toil of a small group of Christians more than one hundred years ago who settled in this corner of the city and whose hearts were filled with affection for God and who wanted their children to have the same for themselves, and to reach the same destiny. Perhaps our legacy is how we have shed tears and sweat and have toiled to preserve this magnificent testament of faith by those before us here at St. Agatha's!
The Reimers & Jolivette Company will start working on the church roof June 16. You have given us enough money for it. Please consider contributing to the Roof Fund for Phase II next year. Any money given over and beyond the cost shall go into the Preservation Fund so we can finish up the last part of the restoration project! God bless you!
May 30, 2021: My Dear Parishioners,
What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul in the process?" This is the question our Lord poses to us! The eternal destiny of our soul - how much does it weigh on the scale of things for us? What do we value most? What appeals most to us? What commands our dedication, our commitment, our unswerving loyalty? How does God come into the picture? How much weight does He have when we must weigh things according to their relevance to our life at this very moment? Would we exchange God and His promise for something else that seems to matter more to us now - our careers, our promotion, our ideology, our causes?
This past week, a young man made his First Holy Communion! This is the first time in his young life, something of such importance and significance happened - the Lord came to him with the gift of Himself! I am sure sensorily, this young child did not experience anything earthshaking, but deep down he understood in some profound way his life would not remain the same as before. From now on, his life would be divided into two phases, two parts, two moments: a "before" and an "after". I believe in some imperceptible way to him, his life has been changed for good. God is no longer an abstract entity. He is concrete, He is real; He is "consumable" even! This young child has now tasted God! From now on, every decision he will have made is boiled down to this: does this thing that I am about to do redound to the glory of God? Am I getting closer to God with this action? Am I about to put God ahead of this attractive creature?
The day of First Holy Communion is a day decided by God from all eternity for each one of us. That is the day when the possibility of heaven becomes real, for we can taste our destiny!