A Cycle – 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time 16
Wis. 12:13, 16-19
This weekend is one our parish is approaching with mixed emotions. Our pastor, Fr. Walt, will be leaving us in one week. Walt has been pastor of St. Basil the Great for the past 25 years and he will be greatly missed by us for he was more than our pastor. He was an inspiring figure whose giftedness encouraged us to discover the more God has in store for us and the more we can become as disciples. My homily for this weekends blog is read by over a hundred followers many of whom have never met Fr. Walt. But perhaps they have met other priests or deacons who have those same qualities and the first reading today is fitting as we say goodbye to Walt and at the same time look forward to becoming what we like him were called to become.
Verse 19 says, “…you have taught your people by your deeds.” I cannot think of a better passage given to us by God for this weekend. Those words are a description of the exact method Walt has used to not only serve us but to open our own hearts to respond to the call to serve. It was his actions of selfless giving which show us what serving was all about. It was by his willingness to allow anyone who was inspired to give of themselves the opportunity and the encouragement to develop their gifts. As a result, we have had ministries flourish and have become a vibrant, dynamic community of faith. We have grown from a handful of volunteers to a significant percentage of the parish involved in ministry.
But it was more than just his actions that caused us to look inward and decide we could do more. Walt thrived on your success and not his success as a pastor. He deflects any praise of him back to us and he gives us all the credit as he cheers us on. Our human failings were always referred to as mistakes instead of sin. Walt understood our guilt over past sins could destroy our ability to open ourselves to God. He showed us forgiveness and gave us a means to leave our guilt behind and look forward to the embrace of God. His ministry came from his heart and from his own relationship with God and because of that, we know God’s mercy and forgiveness.
The Book of Wisdom goes on to say, “…you gave our children ground for hope.” Years ago, I heard a priest say that if we do not attempt to reach out to our young, we will not have to worry about a priest shortage because there will be no one in the pews. The need to reach out to our children and do something to engage them was addressed in those early years of his service to us. The partnership with St. Michael’s School, Life Teen, home schooling PSR, the children’s choir, family life activities, youth retreat, children’s liturgy and so much more were begun to provide our young with a positive experience of church. All of this gave our young ground for hope because they are not being ignored.
In fact, none of us have been ignored because we have been guided by someone who has shown us the heart of Jesus and the heart of the Father. The opening verses of that first reading said, “…you have the care of all.” This is a statement that was spoken to God and we can easily apply it to this man who served us for the past 25 years. He has shown us the mind, the heart, and the constant care of the Father because he cared for all of us.
By the end of this month, we will no longer have him in our midst. I know from the conversations I have overheard many are wondering how the parish will change without Walt leading us. I believe that is a question we can easily answer as we will be hard to change.
We have been formed into a community of faith united by our love of Jesus Christ. We worship together, we pass on the good news of the gospel and we share with others. We have been formed into a living image of Jesus Christ by a man who gave of himself.
Why would any of that change because we have a new pastor? We carry on the legacy of the disciples of Jesus. This is because we have been changed and formed over the years and we will continue to be who we discovered we were created to be. The truth is once we have begun this transformation into living stones built to be a light to the world, we can never do less because it will be against our nature.
We welcome our new pastor, Fr. Ryan and look forward to the gifts he brings to our community for he comes to us after great discernment and prayer. He, like Fr. Walt was 25 years ago is God’s gift to us.