Two things this morning kept me thinking. Apparently enough to slow me down enough with something that needs to be done by this weekend. I’m not so much having writers block as it is writer’s pause. I’m pausing to do something else and think for a bit before proceeding with the writing.
My favorite Priest shared his homily from his installation as the pastor of a parish. This isn’t the first time he’s been the pastor of a parish, it’s a new to him family. His homily will speak volumes.
Some of you asked – here is the homily from the installation last Sunday. Thank you to everyone who made it such a memorable event.
1. There is a story told about a group of western doctors
a. who travel to India on a fact-finding trip about health conditions.
2. One day they were touring a hospital,
a. which to their minds was little better than a hospice.
i. Sick people came there to die.
3. As they were walking,
a. they happened upon an old woman,
b. bent over a dying man,
i. picking maggots out of the man’s open wounds with tweezers.
4. The sight repulsed the doctors.
a. One turned to the others and said, in English,
b. confident that no one would really understand:
i. “My God, do you see that? I wouldn’t do that for all the money in the world!”
5. At which point the woman straightened right up,
a. looked the doctor in the eye
b. and said in perfect, if accented English, “Neither would I.”
i. and then returned to her work.
1. The woman was, of course, Mother Teresa.
6. I presume it was the doctors who first told the story.
a. But if they did retell it, they must have felt uncomfortable doing it.
7. As American doctors their profession made them well off by US standards,
a. unbelievably rich by Indian ones.
8. Moreover they were part of a society where wealth determines worth.
9. And they encountered a poor little old Indian woman
a. who measured worth in a far different way.
i. And it must have dawned on them
ii. that she was rich in ways they could not even begin to understand.
10. No wonder they remembered her! And retold the story!
a. Because they are not alone in believing wealth determines our worth.
b. worth in other people’s eyes, and maybe even in God’s.
11. For we Americans have long believed that financial success is a sign of God’s favor.
a. We have believed it ever since the first pilgrims arrived in their promised Land, the New World,
b. and worked to establish a home here
c. and saw their success,
i. as a sign that they had been judged worthy by God:
ii. as a sign that they had been blessed.
12. In fact we still believe it;
a. ‘God bless America’ we sing, for so indeed we believe God has;
i. God has blessed our hard work,
ii. and we are the richest, most powerful nation on Earth
13. Seeing wealth as a sign of God’s blessing is so basic to most of us as Americans
a. that we don’t even question it.
14. And neither did the people in Jesus’ day.
a. They believed it ever since they arrived in their promised land,
i. and worked to establish a home there
15. They saw their success as divine providence,
16. and their wealth as a sign of their worth in God’s eyes.
17. God was blessing them
a. because they were faithful the agreement God established with them;
i. that agreement called the covenant
ii. an agreement which rested on the ten commandments.
18. For the people of Israel it was simple
a. Follow the commandments,
b. live a life of prayer, fasting and giving of alms to the poor
c. and you would be blessed!
19. Well one day a man came up to Jesus looking for a special blessing
a. He was looking for the greatest blessing – the final blessing;
i. the blessing everyone hoped for but few, it was believed, could actually attain.
ii. he asked Jesus “what I must do to inherit eternal life?”
20. Jesus reminded him of the commandments,
a. And of course, he replied, he had followed them his whole life.
21. But then Jesus asked him to do one more thing;
a. to go and give all he had as alms to the poor and follow him;
b. then his worth would be measured by treasures in heaven
i. and he would be truly blessed.
c. But the man couldn’t.
22. It is only then that we find out why;
a. It was because he was rich.
23. And it is also then that we find out why the disciples we so astonished
a. when Jesus declared that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
b. than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.
24. Because it was common knowledge
a. that while everyone can pray,
b. and everyone can fast,
c. only the wealthy can give alms
25. Thus in the eyes of many the wealthy were doubly blessed
a. Not only had they won favor in God’s eyes
b. but they were blessed with the material riches to win still more, to inherit even eternal life!
26. And yet not according to Jesus.
a. for him material wealth was not a blessing but a responsibility
b. And not a possession to be clung to, but a gift to be given and given again.
27. If we do not share, if we do not give,
a. then our wealth is without worth,
b. and our blessings become curses, for they weigh us down,
c. Like the camel a beast of burden laden with baggage,
i. trying to force itself through the eye of a needle.
28. Since I first heard this story, years ago, mother Teresa has been made a saint.
29. by making her a saint the Church holds her up as an example
a. that not all worth can be measured by wealth
30. and proclaims that there are people
a. who will do things which most of us would not do – for all the money in the world.
31. And yet the question still remains unanswered, doesn’t it?
a. If not for money why did she do what she did?
32. It is not a question that gets asked only of little old women in India.
33. I have been asked the same question. Many times.
34. It usually comes hidden in another question – Father Baker, why did you become a priest?
35. Depending on who asks it, the unsaid reason why it was asked is loud and clear– Father Baker, WHY would ANYONE become . . . a PRIEST!? I wouldn’t do that for all the money in the world!
36. but of course you wouldn’t – no one would.
a. I became a priest, for the same reason any priest does – and it ain’t the salary!
b. But it is the same reason that led Mother Teresa to that hospital –
c. the same reason that led Jesus to shepherd a bunch of 12 dense disciples
d. The same reason that led Jesus to the Cross.
37. Love is the reason.
a. Love of God sure – but love of all of you.
b. we fall ln love with serving you,
c. in love with caring for you
d. in love with building up a community with you
i. where all people are welcome
1. no matter who you are where you come from what language you speak or lifestyle you lead,
ii. We do this, I do this because you we, all of us are all already loved by God
iii. and if that is the case how else can I, can we here in this place, do otherwise?
38. After this mass at the reception which follows
39. those of you from St. Stephen’s St. Elizabeth and St. St. Monica’s
40. will have the opportunity to meet some of the people
a. whom I have served as a priest over the years –
i. you can get all the dirt!
ii. all the inside info on what I am like as a pastor!
1. I assure you there is plenty.
41. But hear this –
a. along side all the stories told,
b. all the promises made,
c. all the creeds professed
d. and oaths taken today
e. know that one thing has brought me here,
f. and one thing keeps me here – and that is love. Love of God, and love of you.
42. And that love is powerful. It made Mother Teresa a Saint and it raised Jesus from the dead.
a. For just ask your mother or father, your spouse or partner; your son or daughter –
b. Love will make you do things you wouldn’t do for all the money in the world.
As I was reading his homily and being once again called to something deeper, I was chatting with a friend about a presentation she’s making next week. She was seeking a little input which I happily offered. There is a little more to the conversation that I need to ponder a bit. Let’s just say it has to do with a personal perception of “helping others grow” and “nurturing my own career”.
And something more important. I’m not a doormat. It’s okay to set boundaries and limits. I can set goals and dreams and work towards them and still be there with and for people.