I was sitting at my computer doing the best I could to use my time wisely and spent most of Wednesday completing my homily. When I was finished typing I had 1,800 words, which meant I had to lose about 500 of them if I was to have any hope of talking for less than the 10 minutes most Catholics will tolerate for the homily. I usually reserve the task of editing for Saturday morning.
Then on Thursday, while minding my own business and wandering aimlessly around the Internet, I see a headline:
“Pope Francis: I Am a Sinner – by Fr. Antonio Spadaro”
I followed the link and landed at America Magazine, a Jesuit Journal, and I found a 12,000 word interview with the new pope. The article was titled: “A Big Heart open to God.”
I read it several times. After sitting in my office quietly for several moments I said to myself- “OMG” I need to change most of the homily.
I encourage you to grab a cup of coffee, tea or a cold beverage of your choosing and find 30 minutes to read the interview in its entirety. (Click here for the interview.)
The headlines in the media are similar to this one from the CBC:
Pope Francis says church too obsessed with gays, abortion: Church sometimes caught up in ‘small-minded’ rules.
To be fair to the headline writers the Pope does, in fact, say these things in the interview. However, he says so much more. He does not suggest any changes in the Church’s teachings on the hot topic issues of the day. Instead, he tells us that we need to be more focused on the gospel.
Here are three points the Pope touches on in the interview that captured my interest:
Francis sees The Church as a field hospital
We need to be a church that reaches out and heals wounds. This pastor from the streets of Argentina reminds us that it is impossible to discuss a cholesterol problem with a person who is in the midst of a heart attack.
We are a church, a people of hope, which is so much deeper than optimism:
The Holy Father encourages us to read St. Paul’s letters to the Hebrews, especially chapter 11 to understand that we are a people of hope. Things may be difficult, and it may seem like the world is going to hell, but we are beacons of hope to those in despair.
We are a people, and a Church of prayer.
Perhaps the most touching insight of the interview is the very short reflection the Pope offers on the importance of prayer in his own life. He shares that:
“Prayer for me is always a prayer full of memory, of recollection, even the memory of my own history or what the Lord has done in his church or in a particular parish. For me, it is the memory of which St. Ignatius speaks in the First Week of the Exercises in the encounter with the merciful Christ crucified. And I ask myself: ‘What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What should I do for Christ?’
Jesus wants us to be trustworthy in the small things. When we read the gospels, we will see that the primary command of Christ comes back to the hope He has for us as his disciples which is “To be faithful servants walking God’s talk.”
We need to reach out and heal the wounded while suspending judgement on how they were wounded.
We are called to walk in hope into situations that on the surface seem hopeless.
And we do this in prayer always asking ourselves- What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? And perhaps most importantly, what should I do for Christ?
Today is an opportunity to be faithful in the small things that Jesus talks about.
In the large hall after mass, we have the annual sign-up for the Out of the Cold and the Friends of Dismas Community dinner programs.
Providing a meal that will be served to some complete strangers seems like a very small thing indeed.
You might be asking yourself this question: How can throwing some mystery ingredients into an aluminum pan and dropping it off at the church for some homeless person or convicted criminal to eat be a sacred thing to do?
There are surely bigger things to be done in the name of Christ.
Perhaps, but consider this story.
One night over five years ago I was at one of these dinners where the food was supplied by the people of St. Patrick’s in the form of donated casseroles and desserts. I remember it was a cold night and dark, so I am guessing it was January or February- the most ordinary and dreary of times.
Teddy walked into the basement room where we were having dinner and was standing alone. Teddy is a man suffering from mental illness and did time in prison for a number of offences some of them serious.
He was obviously confused on this night and was having difficulty with what was happening around him. I had not seen him for a while, so we greeted each other, and he told me he was sure that one of the women in the group was the devil.
This was not good.
You see Teddy knows his bible, chapter and verse. It is, however, of little comfort to him as it combines with his mental illness in ways that make him fear-filled and paranoid.
I invited him to sit with me at dinner, and we proceeded to the table. I am not sure which one of you prepared the casserole we ate from that night, but it helped to calm Teddy down as we sat and broke bread with each other.
I listen to him for 30-45 minutes that night as he talked non-stop, quoting the bible and making absolutely no sense.
When he finished eating we said good-bye, and that was the last time I ever saw Teddy.
I have no idea what happened to him.
Did the dinner you provided that night change his life?
I do not know the answer to that question. It seems the most likely answer is no, but in reality, we don’t know what impact our small kindnesses have on another person.
All I know is that meal was a sacred time for me, and I hope it was a sacred time for Teddy as well. He was a wounded soul that night in need of a field hospital.
It was well above our capability to heal Teddy. Your gift of dinner, however, allowed a brief moment of kinship to be possible.
Pope Francis encourages us to “Heal the wounds, heal the wounds…. And you have to start from the ground up.”
In other words we need to do the small things.
At the end of mass you will hear the words- Go in Peace Glorifying the Lord by your life.
Every week, when we hear this dismal it is an opportunity to ask yourself; “What can I do for Christ.”
Today you can help by committing to cook a casserole.
Volunteering to be a part of the St. Patrick’s cooking programs means that you young folks can bake cookies or other treats for men and women who perhaps never tasted a homemade dessert.
As a family, you can share a sacred moment by doing this small thing together. Why not make two casseroles. On the day you drop it off at the church have the second one for your family dinner and while saying grace remember those you have helped in your prayer.
Perhaps you are a part of another ministry or group and would like an opportunity to provide a complete dinner. Stop by the sign up table and let’s talk.
In the gospel Jesus tells us that “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones.”
Today is one of those opportunities to prove ourselves worthy of this trust by being the faithful servant walking God’s talk.