Jesus tells us "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God what belongs to God." Since we are in an election year we are more aware of what we owe to Caesar: to pay of our taxes, to obey just laws and to respect those in authority, policemen, teachers, elected officials and so on. All of this is really an extension of the fourth commandment: Honor your father and mother.
We could spend a lot of time talking about our obligations to the state, but today is also Mission Sunday, so I really want to focus on the second part of Jesus' saying: And Give to God what belongs to God. That simple declaration embraces all that we call "mission."
The parish is the primary place where we give back to God what belongs to him. Let’s begin with a statistic: last year in Holy Family we baptized 172 infants and small children. The parents and godparents took preparation classes and the day of the baptism, they made a profession of faith and promised to bring their child up in the practice of the faith. They expressed a commitment to the Church. But I want you to know we as a parish also made a commitment to them. We want to help those young parents, some of them are so far away from their own moms and dads. We want to do what we can to guide them and make them feel welcome here at Holy Family.
We have a lot to offer: a great school, a fine religious education program, a confirmation and youth ministry program, a super dedicated staff. We have something else pretty unique: two priests and two deacons. That means four ministers of baptism and also of marriage. Last year 23 couples were married at Holy Family. I'm convinced there are a lot more couples out there who should be getting married. We do not want our young couples to be "living together." Not only is that against God's law; it has been proven to be destructive to any future marriage. Please do not misunderstand me: neither I nor Fr Peterson, nor Deacons Joe or Ted, nor Helen Osterlie nor Abel Magaña--is going to hassle or judge any couple who comes here to do the right thing. We want you to receive God's blessing and to have a beautiful marriage.
I might mention here that our deacons are available to for other kinds of blessing. For example your home, your car or a sacred image. Hispanics and some of the other immigrant groups are reminding us that here in the U.S. we've become a little sterile in the practice of our faith. Our home, even our automobile can be a place we feel the presence of God.
One practice of our faith is praying for our dead. Last year my own father died. Every time I go up to Camano Island to visit my mom, I stop by Camano Cemetery to visit his grave and pray for him. It means so much to keep close to our loved ones who have died. There will be special remembrance in our parish on All Soul's Day, November 2. I encourage you to have Mass offered for those who have died. Fr Peterson and I can do that here at Holy Family. There are also priests down in Peru who would be glad to offer Mass for your loved ones. You can do that by calling our parish office or writing their name on a piece a paper and placing it in an envelope with a offering of five, ten or twenty dollars. When I go to Peru on Monday I am going to be taking a number of Mass requests and stipends with me; my priest friends there will be ecstatic to get them. The ones I worked with are only earning $150 a month, so if they can receive some stipends from here, it makes a big difference.
You know that while we sometimes complain about our problems here, people in a country like Peru are going through some intense economic struggles. I remember when I was coming back to Seattle in 1989 after two years in Peru. A woman approached me carrying her baby on her back. She said to me, "Father I know you are going to the United States, but I am having a difficult time. My husband has just abandoned me. I have three other children and I do not have money to buy notebooks, pens, clothes to send my older girls to school. We do not have decent food. We do not have enough blankets (where I worked was 12,500 feet above sea level so it got real cold at night). One of my children is sick and I can't buy medicine for her. Father, I am in a terrible situation." Then she took here baby from her back and handed him to me, and said, "Father, you are going to the United States, please take my baby."
I held that child in my arms, a beautiful baby boy. I said to her, "Yolanda, there are so many families in my country who would do anything to have this child. They would give him anything he could ever desire materially. But it is better that you keep him. We will find a way to help you." Thanks to the generosity of people here, I was able to help Yolanda send her kids to school, buy some blankets and decent food. And some capital to start a small business buying and selling potatoes.
When I was leaving Peru for the last time in 1994, I had a great satisfaction. Among the people who came to say good-bye were Yolanda and her four children, seeing those kids in school, basically healthy and with some kind of future to look forward to. I picked up the youngest son in my arm, His name is Efrain and he was in first grade then. I said good-bye and he gave me a kiss on the cheek and when I went to put him down, he squeezed my shoulder hard, looked me in the eye and said, "Padre, no te vayas." Father don't go. I explained that I had to go to be close to my parents who were old and to work with my own people. but I told him, "I will not forget you."
You know, that is the reason I wanted to speak to you this Mission Sunday. On behalf of Efrain and other children like him. They have so much potential but they do not have the opportunities our children here do. We need to share with them. We need to share with them. You do that through your Mission Sunday envelope. If you did not bring it with you, there are some in the pews. I would ask you to pass them down now. If you make out a check, I would ask you to do so to Holy Family and put Missions in the memo. I would ask you to consider writing a check for $20, 50 or 100 or even more. I usually do not say what I give, but even tho I am going to Peru on Monday and will be trying help out as much as I can directly, I believe in this collection so much that I am giving $100. I saw the benefits when I was in Peru. the small diocese that I worked in, received $7,000 each year from the Missions. That $7,000 was vital for our catechetical program. So the money you give this Sunday does get to the people who need it the most.
I invite you to respond generously.