By Fr. James E. Shea, C.Ss.R.
Dear Parishioners and Friends:
One day, in a religion class, the teacher told the students many wonderful stories about Jesus. She said, “Alex, where is Jesus?” “Jesus is in heaven” answered Alex. “Very good,” said the teacher. The teacher next said, “Olivia, where is Jesus?” “Jesus is in my hear,” Olivia answered. Again, the teacher said, “Very good.” The teacher then turned to Jimmy and said, “Jimmy, where is Jesus?” Jimmy said, “Jesus is in the bathroom.” Puzzled with his answer she asked, “Why do you say that?” Jimmy responded, “Because every morning dad bangs on the bathroom door and yells, “Jesus Christ, are you still in there?”
This Sunday we celebrate Catechetical Sunday. We bless all the teachers who will be teaching in St. Gerard Catholic Faith Formation program. Each year there is a special theme for Catechetical Sunday. Our theme this year is “Living as Missionary Disciples.” ‘Missionary Disciples’ is a term which we will be hearing about more and more. As a Catholic Church, we are missionary disciples. We follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. It is Jesus who has called us. We have been baptized into Jesus Christ. We learn more about Jesus. And then we the disciples are sent out as missionaries to welcome more folks into the flock. When we were baptized we heard the words of Christ, “Go out to all peoples, be with all peoples and baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
We hear in our readings this weekend that the ‘Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger and rich in compassion.’ What a comfort it is to know that the Lord is kind and merciful. We are all sinners. We do things that are wrong. We do stupid things and even fall into sin. But the Lord is an understanding Lord. The Lord is always ready to forgive. We hear in Matthew’s gospel how Jesus tells us that we must forgive not seven times, but seventy-seven times. No need to count the number of times leading up to 77 times. ‘Seventy-seven’ means that we forgive, as God forgives, as many times as a person requests for forgiveness. That could be 7 times, or 77 times, or 77 billion times. Anyone living the message of the gospel have discovered how difficult it is to forgive. Deep in our hearts we know we must forgive. But at times we cannot put forgiveness into words and say, “I forgive you.”
The Amish folks in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in 2006, gave us a beautiful example of forgiveness after the ‘Amish School Shooting.’ When most people would say, “I will never forgive” the Amish not only forgave but also reached out to comfort the killer’s family. After this senseless shooting a pastor wrote: A grandfather of one of the Amish girls who was murdered in Lancaster County, said of the killer on the day of the murders, “We must not think evil of this man.”
A member of the Brethren community living near the Amish explained, “I don’t thin there’s anybody here that wants to do anything but forgive and not only reach out to those who have suffered a loss in that way, but to reach out to the family of the man who committed these acts.”
The Amish reached out to the family of the killers within hours of the shooting and have since established a charitable fund for his family. Five girls, ranging in age from 6 to 13, were injured. The response of the friends and neighbors, parents and grandparents was ‘Regardless of what you have done to our children we will not withhold our love from you.’
Albert Speer was one of the high ranking Nazi. He was one of Hitler’s ministers. He was convinced at Nuremberg to spending the rest of his life in Spandau prison. He wrote of the huge burden of guilt he carried. He said that he could never forgive himself. But he responded to Simon Wiesenthal’s who wrote a book about the atrocities of the concentration camps. He said that Wiesenthal showed kindness to him when they met after the war. There was no reproach, anger or hatred, and how much that had helped, and that as a result his burden felt lighter. The final line of his letter in reply to Wiesenthal says was this: ” It is God’s grace that has touched me through you.”
“Do you believe in life after death?” the boss asked one of his employees. “Yes sir, I do,” said the employee. Then the boss said, “That’s good because after you left the office early yesterday to go to your grandmother’s funeral, she dropped by to see you.”
Next Saturday – 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. there will be an Archdiocesan Assembly at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. It is called: V Encuentro. V Encuentro means ‘fifth encounter.’ Over the years there have been encounters (I; II; III; IV) to reach out to all peoples, especially Hispanics. Since the Hispanic population is rapidly growing in the United States the United States Council of Catholic Bishops have developed a strategy to reach out to all people, especially the Hispanics who have recently arrived in the United States. It is designed to make everyone welcomed in our parishes and Archdiocese. With open arms we embrace everyone into our faith communities. It is a free event. So, I encourage everyone to attend.
Two wise old men were engaged in an animated conversation. “Since you are so wise,” said one sarcastically, “try to answer this question: Why is it that when a slice of buttered bread falls to the ground, it’s bound to fall on the buttered side?”
The other sage was a bit of a scientist. He decided to disprove this theory with a practical experiment. He buttered a slice of bread. Then, he dropped it. “There you are,” he shouted triumphantly. “The bread, as you can see, did not fall on the buttered side at all. So, where is your theory now?”
“Ah-ha!” laughed the other cynically. “You think you are so smart!” You buttered the bread on the wrong side!”
Fr. Jim Shea, C.Ss.R.