Saturday, May 19, 2007

Farewell

Friends, I’m especially grateful to our pastor Fr. Joseph, for the chance to preach today, on my last weekend here at St. Anne-St. Augustin. The friars have assigned me to our parish in Yonkers, New York, where your own pastor’s predecessor, Fr. John, is pastor. I will be moving there in the coming days. Thanks to your prayers, I will eventually serve there as priest.

Preaching today gives me the chance, even though I have been with you only a short time, to tell you how and why I am grateful for the opportunity to have prayed and walked and broken open the Word of God with you over these past nine months.

As I thought about how I could express my thanks to you, the people of this parish, I thought—just trust me on this one—I might start with original sin.

I say this because I think one of the most debilitating consequences of original sin is our frequent inability to notice what is good in us. Instead of rejoicing and being grateful for our good points and the things we have accomplished through cooperation with the grace of God, we often tend to focus instead on our faults, on our failures, on the things about us that aren’t quite as they should be. And this goes both for us as individuals and as communities.

Therefore it is a great grace to have in our lives people who will remind us of how good we are. We all need folks around us to remind us the action of grace in our lives. That’s part of what friends are for. I know personally that it’s one of the great things about having my religious brothers. Though I don’t have the experience myself, I imagine that this is one of the graces of marriage as well, to have someone who will quietly insist to us that we are irresistibly loveable, even though, sometimes, we can hardly believe it ourselves.

So, as I finish up my time here, I want to try to do exactly this for you. In case you don’t see it, and in case it would be good to be reminded, I want to tell you, from the point of view of one visitor to your parish, what it is that makes this place so loveable and so graced by the Holy Spirit of God.

Now I’ve spent just about my whole life in the Order in multicultural and multi-lingual parishes. Even when I was a novice among the cornfields of Wisconsin, there were old folks in church on Sunday speaking to each other in German. In both New York and Boston I have served in parishes with a Spanish-speaking majority. So I’ve been around the multicultural block, as it were.

Now nobody knows how to do this multicultural thing real well. It’s awkward, almost by definition. And yet, here, in this place, I have seen, more than anywhere else I have ever been, the willingness to risk, to try, and experiment, and to learn.

In most places, different language and cultural communities are happy to co-exist. But you are doing more—reaching out to each other, hearing each other’s stories, praying with each other to the one God. And I want to tell you today that this is a tremendous grace that you have going for you here. It’s a hopeful stab at the unity that is God’s own desire and dream, not only for little parish of St. Anne-St. Augustin, but for the whole world. This is the very prayer of the Lord himself in today’s gospel, that all might be one as he and the Father are one. Rejoice and be grateful for your hope-filled response to God’s own dream of unity!

Recall the visions of the prophet Isaiah that we hear so much during Advent. Isaiah prophesied that all nations would come streaming to God’s blessings. And as we know, this hope is fulfilled for us in Christ. In Christ, the promises made to the little nation of the Israelites become the hope of all peoples of all times. And the final fulfillment of these prophecies comes in our second reading today, as people from all nations, having washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb, enter through the Tree of Life—the Cross—into the New Jerusalem.

What I want to tell you today is that when you gather here for the Eucharist, and especially when people of different cultures and languages—all the nations of the world, as it were—process up to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, to affirm and receive communion with the Lord and with one another, these words of the prophets and these visions of Revelation are being fulfilled here and now. Rejoice and be glad, for this is the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God is here.

If the prophet Isaiah were here today, I have no doubt he would praise God to see the fulfillment of his vision of different cultures streaming to the Lord’s blessings. And if John, the author of Revelation, were to see the communion procession of the people of God here at St. Anne-St. Augustin, I have no doubt that he would rejoice, and see in you his vision of the saints processing into the New Jerusalem.

So, be grateful to God for the work of the Spirit in this place. Your faith and willingness are answering the Lord’s own prayer for the unity of those who believe. And for my part, I want to thank you for the chance to meet you and to be edified by your faith. I go forth better for having known you, and encouraged in the Lord. Thank you.

(7th Sunday of Easter, C, Last Sunday at St. Anne-St. Augustin)

3 comments:

fmn said...

Wonderful homily! I think I'll link to it. :-)

Br. Chris Gaffrey, ofm said...

Thanks Charles, this is a good homily and the part about seeing the good in one's self is a reminder to something that's been kind of a theme for me recently.

Charles of New Haven said...

Thank you friends, for your encouragement in the Lord.