“Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Words from our Gospel today from the 10th chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew – sisters and brothers, may the Lord give to you his peace and his joy.
As you know this is my last weekend with you and we’ve all had a lot to process over the last month or so. And among other things I’ve been thinking and crying and praying. I’ve also been listening to music to give some expression to everything that’s going on, and one day I was listening to the song by Leann Womack, “I Hope You Dance” which delivers an uplifting, timeless message based on a mother’s narration, voicing her desire for her children to step out and embrace life, take a chance on love and faith. And it has me thinking about what my hopes and dreams are for you.
I don’t have to tell you that St. Mary’s is an amazing place. It has been such a privilege to be with you these past few years: Picnics and crazy Hotdog hats, student vs faculty volleyball games, ice skating and name that tune with the school kids, Breakthrough youth nights and Lego ice blocks, Small Group Faith Sharing and RCIA sessions, gardening around the campus and walks around the block, repainting the chapel, celebrating 174 years of parish life, adventures with the Scout Troop, retreats with the Christ Renews Men and Women’s teams, the staff, the overwhelming response to the Giving Trees, to Project Mission India and Hosting Fr. Sleeva; holding hands in the Emergency Room of Millard Fillmore, thousands of confessions, Graduation, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Confirmation, First Communions, getting through a pandemic, getting through a Christmas Blizzard, Corpus Christi Processions, one of the best Easter Triduums I’ve ever been a part of… and a list that could go on and on. Most importantly, all spent with people whom I love. We’ve been through a lot together.
And now we’re about to take those next steps on the path of life that is marked out for us, especially as our parish, together with our family of parishes, embarks on the Road to Renewal. The Renewal asks our family of parishes to look at several aspects of discipleship and find ways to live these out into the future. We’re to think about how we are doing liturgy and spirituality, formation and outreach, stewardship and administration. But as you know, there can be no Renewal of the Church that is not also at the same time a personal Renewal. Let me say that again. There is no Renewal of the Church that is not also at the same time a personal Renewal. And so, the invitation before us here is for you, personally, to examine your own discipleship in these areas, these pillars of the renewal.
- When it comes to the liturgy, the Church is going to be less dependent on the priests and more dependent upon you. Step up to become an usher, a Eucharistic Minister, a Lector, a Music Minister, an Altar Server. Participate more fully in the sacramental life of the Church. Open yourselves to the Mass, to the grace of Confession, to the opportunities for worship so that you may experience the grace that God wants to bestow upon you. That is my hope for you.
- When it comes to the spirituality pillar, I cannot live for you the relationship that God wants to have with you. Pray. Pray. Pray. Find what works for you. There are plenty of opportunities for prayer here as well as to form a prayer life that is suited for home, for work, for being with friends, and for every aspect of life. Pray, so that you may come to know how infinitely much God loves you. That is my hope for you.
- In the first reading, Jeremiah talks about hearing whisperings on every side - half the people out there don’t know what Catholicism is about and what the Church really teaches, while the other half doesn’t know why we do what we do and how beautiful our way of life is. Don’t stop learning. St. Mary’s Faith Formation is the most comprehensive in the Diocese – there is something for everyone here whether you are 2 or 102. Nurture and grow your faith life and get the support here you need to live it out personally. That is my hope for you.
- Inreach and Outreach reminds us that faith isn’t just about one’s self. The world is crazy - we have the antidote. People need our witness. Become disciples who make disciples. Maybe that starts here with inviting people to come with you and share in your experiences here. Maybe that means going out to be the hands of Christ through service. Love others – how? – not as the world loves but as Christ loved us. That requires great courage to reach out but it will bring your discipleship to a whole new level. That is my hope for you.
- God blesses us so that our blessings may be shared. That is the true gift. This is your parish. Everybody has a part to play. Something is missing when you’re not here. I hope you share the time, and talent, and treasure you have. That is my hope for you.
- Things are going to be organized a little differently to help us run more capably in a church that is rightsizing. Some things will change. Some things will remain the same. That is life. The paradox is that this model relies on cooperation to be fruitful – if we do not work together, then the whole operation will fall apart, we all will lose what is ours, and will be less of a Church and parish community because of it. I know that you will do what is right. That is my hope for you.
The mission of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church Swormville is to make disciples of Jesus Christ, so that all may come to know love and serve God and attain eternal happiness in heaven. Our mission will be advanced by our efforts in liturgy, prayer, faith formation, inreach/outreach, stewardship, and administration. We’ve come a long way. The ground work has been laid. My hope for you is that you make this mission your own; my hope is that you live out your discipleship and become the-best version-of-yourself that God has personally called you to in each and every aspect of this renewal. If we are all renewed in this way, that will set the world on fire. That is my hope for you.
I feel a lot like Moses, guiding God’s people to the Promised Land but himself is unable to enter. As we part ways, I wish you the blessings of success, health, happiness, and prosperity. However, the reality is that you may face hardships, failures, illness, and poverty along this road. Like the vocation of any parent, I am confronted with the fact that I will not be able to ever fully protect my beautiful baby from a world full of grief and violence and suffering and that my love falls short of what you deserve. And I guess, as I consider what my hopes are for you, that has me ultimately thinking, that you are sons and daughters of an even better father – God the Father, who is looking out for us and lovingly reminds us today, “Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” You’re in God’s good hands. That is my hope for you.