July 6, 2014
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading 1: Zec 9:9-10
Responsorial Psalm Ps 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13-14
R. (cf. 1) I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God.
Reading II: Rom 8:9, 11-13
Gospel Mt 11:25-30
In 1967, when I was four years old, my family lived in Royal Oak MI, a close suburb of Detroit. Sadly, this was the summer when racial riots had broken out across the nation, but especially Detroit, much of which went up in flames. Needless to say, most in the area were “on edge” and a good deal of fear was all around. As a four-year-old, I was aware of the tension, but did not realize the implications of what was going on. But, as a young boy, the riots did not cause me much concern.
One summer morning, I woke up and, having found none of my friends to play with, decided to take a trip to downtown Royal Oak. It never occurred to me would cause distress to my already-on-edge parents. So, this four-year old boy walked the mile or so through our town to the “downtown” business district. I recall seeing the many sights that I usually only saw from the back seat of the car—but this trip I had more time to examine things more closely. I recall walking past the plate-glass window of a car dealer. Since my dad worked for General Motors, I found this fascinating—I’m sure it wasn’t a Ford Dealer—I’d never give them even a moment’s notice! I also remember seeing a pet shop—where they actually sold dogs! My brother and sister and I wanted one of these—but my parents said we couldn’t. Maybe they didn’t know that you could buy one right near home! Finally, after a couple of hours, my stomach reminded me it was lunch time. So, I thought I’d go home and see what mom had for lunch. Several blocks from home, a neighbor who I knew came up to me and, to my surprise greeted me and volunteered to take me home! I remember thinking, “I know how to get home—I wonder why he wants to walk me there?” But, I was fine having some companionship, so I agreed. Wow—there was some excitement at home! A police car was even parked in front of the house! I could barely wait to see what was going on! As it turned out, I was what was going on. The police had been called to find a lost boy—and that was me. I recall my mother embracing me and crying with joy. Then she said, “where were you going?” When I said, “I just went downtown,” she laughed with joy and amazement. It turned out that four-year olds don’t just go “downtown” by themselves, especially when things were so tense in the community. Even more importantly, I discovered that while I was searching for things to see, I was being searched for.
Over the years, I’ve reflected on that question of my mother, “where were you going?” For since then, I’ve made plenty of other trips, across town, across the country (47 states—3 to go!) and across the world (32 countries so far). Who knows how many thousands of miles in a car . . . And as I travel, I occasionally ask myself, “where are you going—really?”
I only found the answer to the question when I entered the seminary and discovered that where my restless soul was “going” was towards God—and while I was looking for other things, it was really God that my restless heart was seeking. Even more important, I discovered that while I was seeking God, I was constantly, daily, being sought by the One I was seeking. This is the most important truth of my life—that I have been found by the love of Christ. I don’t need to go to the ends of this beautiful world to discover that the One that motivates my searching has already found me—wherever I happen to be.
Nineteen years ago, I told the people of St. Edward Parish in Waterloo that I had to leave because God wanted me to meet Him in Dubuque—and my act of faith was rewarded greatly! Among these 19 years have been three marvelous years here at the Church of the Nativity where I have discovered the face of God in remarkable ways, but primarily through your remarkable faces! I’ve found the face of the suffering Christ in the grieving families of those who have died. I’ve found the face of the merciful Christ in the many generous folks who care for each other and, especially, the needy in our community. I’ve seen the crucified Christ in the rooms of our two hospitals and nursing homes. I’ve seen the joyful Christ at weddings, baptisms, First Communions, parish meals, gatherings of seniors, even at Bingo! Above all, I’ve experienced the loving Christ in the many kindnesses you’ve shown me. In the end, you were just what I was searching for—for the face of God. I thank you for showing that to me. And . . .when my face did not show Christ’s very clearly because of my failings, I regret that—but know I tried my best!
Some have asked me how I feel about going to a new place. To be honest—I’m excited, because I know that the One for whom I’ve been searching all my life is waiting in Waterloo, to show his vivid face to me, just as he did here. And because God’s lovely people are waiting there, just as you were here, I go to take on new responsibilities, knowing that, as Jesus promised in the words of today’s gospel, the burden will be light because it is HIS burden and many good folks will be there to carry it with me.
As I begin a new phase of my searching for God and God’s finding me, I hope you remember, beloved children of God, that what you are constantly searching for is the One who is first and always seeking you: Our good God, who is ready to find you each moment and especially in the most sacred moment of our parish community—the Eucharist. Begin each week here, being found by the one whom you are really seeking above all.
And while there is sadness to leave such fine folks as you—I rest in this confident truth—where we’re going is the same place—to our God. With the confidence of the unbreakable bond of the Communion of the Saints, I’ll see you when God brings us back together, hopefully sometime soon or, if not, in God for eternity. Until we meet again, know of my gratitude for the face of God you showed me while I was here!