Message: We are on a journey to hope. We need each other; we need the Church.
On this Third Sunday of Easter we continue our journey to hope. I've invited you to take the first step - open yourself to Jesus, his Divine Mercy. That step will involve you in a great adventure - not just with you and Jesus, but with other believers. That's what I want to talk about today: How we support each other in the journey to hope.
I'd like give you an example of that support of one believer to another. It involves Protestant Pastor Rick Warren and Catholic Bishop Kevin Vann. They were friends before tragedy struck, when, on April 5, 2013, Pastor Warren's son committed suicide. Rick turned to Bishop Vann for spiritual counsel. Together they prayed, read the Bible and studied the complex topic of mental health.*
What they discovered not only helped them personally, but it led them to help other Christians struggling with mental health issues. Pastor Warren and Bishop Vann discovered that when people confront a serious mental health concern, such as chronic depression, for 65% the first place they turn is to their local parish or congregation.
Sixty-five percent - that percentage at first seemed hard to believe. But then I thought about how many people bring up personal or family issues in confession, when they come to the office or just in conversations. And not just to me, but Sister Barbara, Anita (my Pastoral Associate for Administration), our religious education ministers - and even our custodian! None of us are trained psychologists - but, in spite of everything, people do confide in us.
Beyond our staff, parish volunteers hear people's story. When you think about it, it is not so surprising that when a mental health issue emerges, the first place people go is their local congregation or parish. Usually we simply listen and pray, but sometimes we point them to resources such as Catholic Community Services.
You might be thinking, "Father Bloom is leading into the Annual Catholic Appeal." You are correct and I will make this part brief: If you haven't made a pledge, I ask you to do so this week. Take an envelope in your hand right now.
We don't exist as an independent congregation - we are part of the Archdiocese of Seattle. The Archdiocese not only needs your support - you need to affirm the Church's place in the journey to hope. It's like this:
A person begins the journey by opening himself to Jesus, his Divine Mercy. That journey is a great adventure as we see in today's Gospel. We see a pair of disciples who are "downcast." Their lives have fallen apart and they are deeply discouraged. What does Jesus do for them? Two things: He opens the Scriptures and he breaks the bread. Does that sound familiar? Yes, it is what we are doing right now. The Mass has two parts: Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist - the Scriptures and the Breaking of Bread.
Here we see the second step of the journey to hope: connecting not only with Jesus, but with other believers. Rick Warren expresses it this way:
"While your relationship to Christ is personal, God never intends it to be private. In God's family you are connected to every other believer, and we belong to each other for eternity. The Bible says, 'In Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." (Rom 12:5 NIV)
Now, a person might think, "I'm doing OK. I can get along on my own." But as St. Paul tells us that is like thinking a healthy kidney can function outside the body. You can keep it on ice for a while, but eventually it will shrivel and die. The kidney or any organ needs the body and the body needs each organ. St. Paul says that we are members one to another - like organs in a human body. You have an irreplaceable function in the Body of Christ.
For that reason the second step of hope is connecting with other believers. Please take note of the movement in today's Gospel. It begins with two disciples talking about "all the things that had occurred." Then they have the great experience: Scriptures and Breaking of the Bread. From there they go to the Apostles - who are the original bishops.
The successor of the apostles in Western Washington is Archbishop Sartain. We show our connection with the archbishop by taking our Appeal envelope, saying a prayer and making a pledge. I thank those who made their pledge. And for those who have not yet done so, please pray about it this week. At this time you may not be able to make a financial commitment, but please make at least a commitment of prayer. In fact, prayer is the first and foremost for all of us. That's the deepest way we connect one with another.
Brothers and sisters, we are on a journey to hope. We need each other; we need the Church. Uniting oneself with Jesus and other believers does not removes life's problems but it does give us a new way of approaching them. I will talk about that next Sunday. For today I want you to know that through the Church we receive the message of hope. As the Gospel says, "The Lord has truly risen and has appeared to Simon." And as Simon Peter himself tells us, "Your faith and your hope are in God." Amen
*Pope Benedict observed: "Great progress has been made in the battle against physical pain; yet the sufferings of the innocent and mental suffering have, if anything, increased in recent decades." Spe Salvi #36
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies
Podcasts of homilies (website of my niece, Sara)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Fr. Brad's Homilies: great listening - I particularly enjoyed his series on the seven sacraments
letter from Archbishop Sartain: "Stephanie gave me a medal and a necessary lesson in discipleship. With the spontaneity, freedom, and love of a child of God, she taught me something invaluable about my need for detachment. Not clinging to something precious to her, something that signaled the height of her personal accomplishments, she freely gave – and her face radiated joy. Do I so freely give of myself, so joyfully surrender my attachments?"
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru