Sunday, May 18, 2014

Going & Changing

   Fifth Sunday of Easter   A 

I come from a family that’s really good at visiting,
but which kind of struggles when it comes to making an exit.
For example…
Every Sunday evening,
my parents go to see my grandparents:
to catch up on the week’s news and play a game of cards.
As children, we always went, too—
and, as an adult, any time I’m home on a Sunday, I still tag along.
It’s leaving to head back home that’s the tricky part.
It always happens in several stages.
First, my dad pushes back his chair from the kitchen table:
“Well, I guess it’s getting to be that time…”
Several minutes later, he’ll stand up.
It’s awhile again before he reaches to put on his coat.
Next, there’s standing at the door with your hand on the knob.
You get the picture!
I have no idea how this long, lingering good-bye developed.
Among ourselves, it’s not really a problem:
we know the routine; we understand the ritual.
But taking this same track can be troublesome
when you’re visiting outside of the family,
since it comes with the danger of overstaying your welcome.
I know there’ve been times when I’ve missed my hosts’ cues
that it’s high time for me to be going…
…and they haven’t quite understood
my drawn-out, Giroux-style departure.

Wouldn’t it be grand to be invited to a place
where this could never happen? 
Where you wouldn’t have to worry
about leaving too early or staying too late? 
Where your presence would always be welcome
and never a burden?  (cf. L. Donohoo)

Jesus has prepared just such a place for us.

This Sunday, we hear a short portion
of Jesus’ long farewell address to his Apostles at the Last Supper.
(It makes a Giroux family good-bye seem brief!)
And it’s in this setting
that he promises us room aplenty in his Father’s house.

We can experience that here-and-now
in an imperfect way in the Church—
this spiritual house built upon Christ, the cornerstone.
Certainly, Pope Francis has been calling us to that:
to live as a God-centered community
to which all are called and in which all are welcome.
In the two listening sessions we’ve have in recent months,
you have said the much same thing, too:
that the new parish we’re soon establishing
should be a place noted for its friendliness and hospitality.
No doubt, St. André, the humble doorman, would approve!
But our experience of the Church,
of this place where God and man can dwell happily together,
will always be an imperfect one in this world:
imperfect, because it’s built of living stones—
built of you and me.
Its strengths will be God’s strengths;
its weaknesses will be our own.

Built of human, living stones,
the Church is always marked by change.
We’ve certainly seen that in our parishes—
realigned just over a decade ago,
and officially consolidating in just a month and a half.
We must remember: 
July 1st won’t mean that the changing is over.
The longer I’m your pastor,
the sooner I think we’re going to have to face
some of the tough questions we’d all prefer to put off:
our overloaded Mass schedule,
our large number of aging buildings—churches included—
and whether they’re still serving us or we’re now serving them.
But there are changes afoot
which we will have to face even before these.
As you may have already heard,
we will soon have to say an uncomfortable good-bye of our own.
On Wednesday, Bishop LaValley informed Fr. Tom
that he is giving him a new assignment:
he will become the Parochial Vicar of the parishes
in Saranac Lake, Lake Clear, and Bloomingdale, 
effective August 1st.
But we will also soon have the opportunity
to extend a warm welcome.
Bishop LaValley has also announced
that Fr. Justin Thomas, a young priest from India
belonging to the missionary order of the Heralds of the Good News,
has been assigned as our new Parochial Vicar, effective July 9th.
Both Fr. Tom and Fr. Justin
will be here during the month of July to ease the transition,
especially during the first days of St. André’s Parish.
Please keep them in your prayers—
and me, too, if you don’t mind!

Jesus himself is our faithful companion 
along the winding paths of life,
the trusty roadmap that keeps us on course,
and the sure destination 
toward which we’re heading.
He is the way, the truth, and the life.
Pleased to be known as the carpenter’s son,
and to build his Church 
from living stones in this world,
he has far more enduring materials 
with which to work in the next.
What hope, what comfort, 
what joy there is in believing
that what we enjoy only imperfectly on earth
awaits us in eternal perfection in heaven—
where there is no more 
saying awkward good-byes,
but only the Father’s warm welcome home!

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