Family Struggles & Strengths

(Holy Thursday Homily)

This evening we begin the celebration of the Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil. This year we celebrate the Triduum under some special circumstances because of the situation in our world. The events in Kosovo make us aware how fragile peace in our world really is. We pray tonight that all those involved in the conflict will heed the words of Pope John Paul, "It is not too late to sit down and dialogue." We should especially pray that they will respond to his call for a truce of the two Easters. The Roman Catholic Easter is this Sunday, April 4 and the Orthodox celebration is April 11. The pope is calling for a ceasing of hostilities at least for those eight days.

We are also facing some special circumstances in our own parish. Like any large family we have our share of problems, recently some particular financial ones because of our boiler going out. We also have received blessings, for example the great influx of young people and new families into our parish. These blessings--and problems--are what we bring to our celebration of Jesus' Passion, Death and Resurrection. It is only in Him that any event of our lives finds its true meaning.

Our celebration of the Triduum is special this year for another reason. It is the last one before the new millennium. In anticipation of the Jubilee 2000, Pope John Paul II has stated that the year 1999 should be a "journey to the Father." He tells us: "The whole of Christian life is like a great pilgrimage to the house of the Father, whose unconditional love for every creature, especially for the 'prodigal son,' we discover anew each day." That is precisely what we do during these days of the Triduum: join ourselves to Jesus in his final journey to the Father.

I have to admit I have been thinking a lot about God the Father--and human fatherhood. Because Holy Thursday is such an intimate Mass, I would like to share some of my personal thoughts about fatherhood with you. I cannot do this without saying something about my own father.

Sometimes when I see people from my home parish, they will say to me, "you are becoming more and more like your dad every day." I think they are trying to compliment me, but I take it in a couple of senses. I always remember my dad being kind of quiet around us kids and I do see a lot of that in myself. It does not mean there are not deep emotions, even strong affection, just that the expression is sometimes difficult.

Now, I have four brothers and one sister so my dad obviously could not give equal attention to each one of us. In fact, we tended to get his attention when we got into some kind of trouble. I notice that in myself as well. As I said in the beginning, Holy Family has been blessed with a lot of young people and new families. They are much more likely to face crises--especially the ones who live a long way from their own parents and grandparents. In June we are going to add another Mass to better serve those young people who have come to us from great distances and from other cultures. That does not imply a lack of love and appreciation for those who have sacrificed for decades to make Holy Family the great parish it is. Nor does it mean you should get into some kind of problems in order to get my attention!

One of the advantages of growing up in a somewhat large family was that we kids helped each other--and still do today. That of course is my hope for this parish family. God has blessed us with so many talents and gifts. As spiritual father I hope to preside over that sharing of gifts, to encourage, but not to control. I have to say that as pastor one of the things that gives me the deepest joy is see parishioners spontaneously care for one another. Last year the father of one of our families was sent to jail. I was impressed by the way so many people, Anglos and Hispanics, came to the aid of the mom and her three children. And they also went to visit the dad in prison. I know about this because it was fairly dramatic, but so many other quiet ways, people of Holy Family are supporting one another.

Doing that is the living out of the tonight’s liturgy. In just a few moments Fr. Gallagher, Deacon Ted and I will wash the feet of the twelve who represent the apostles at the Last Supper. I have to say I do this with a certain humility, not because washing someone's feet is so hard, but being aware of my own weaknesses. I am not the spiritual father I should be to this community.

But tonight I am not sure those weaknesses are all that important. I think about my own dad. He passed away three and a half years ago. When I visit his grave, I remember him. He was not a perfect dad--but he was the one God chose for my brothers, my sister and me. What matters now are not his faults--but his role in the only thing that does count. What Pope John Paul spoke about--our journey to the Father.

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From Archives:

2010 Homily: Foot Washing & Celibacy
2009: Join the Nearest Household
2008: Grandma, Can I Wash Your Feet?
2007: The Passover Lamb Must Be Eaten
2006: A New Friend at the Banquet
2005: Our True Companion
2004: A Girl's Heroic Holy Hour
2003: Do This!
2002: Humiliation of Priesthood
2001: Super-Abundance of Mercy
2000: Washing of Feet & Eucharist
1999: Family Struggles & Strengths
1998: In Remembrance of Me

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