Bottom line: The bottom line is Jesus.
Thank you for being here today. I am honored by your presence at this celebration of my fifty years as a priest. The weather and the delta virus have presented challenges. Still, they remind us that ultimately we are not in charge. As Woody Allen said, "If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans."
Now, in the Catholic Church we do have a plan for Scripture readings. So, I didn't choose today's readings, but they are appropriate to our celebration - especially the second reading. St Paul compares the union of husband and wife with the union of Christ and the Church. He says, "husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church." At weddings, I will sometimes tell the groom that he is called to give his life for his bride - to care for and protect her - like Jesus did for his bride, even to the last drop of blood.
Something similar applies to the priest. At the altar, the priest - in the person of Christ - offers Jesus' perfect sacrifice - for the sake of his bride the church. Even though I have been a priest for 50 years, I sometimes find myself taken aback, "how is it I am doing this?"
Well, let me tell you the story of my call. When I was boy, our family had a small dairy farm near Arlington. I remember walking on the banks of the Stillaguamish River. The question came into my mind: Where did all this come from? Logically, it seems there should be only darkness and empty space - nothing at all. Later I studied philosophy and learned that it is "the question of being." Why is there something and not nothing at all? I'll leave each of you with that question. The question not only struck me when I was a boy, but I continue to puzzle about it.
When I was in high school, I came across a small book that gave an ordered presentation of the Catholic faith. I read it and since I was the only Catholic boy in my class at Stanwood High School, they would turn to me when a question came up about Catholic practices. In the summer between junior and senior year, we were having a discussion and I was trying to explain some point of Catholic teaching. When I finished, one of the girls looked at me and said, "Phil, I think you are going to be a priest." We laughed.
A few weeks later I was doing a summer job caring for a small estate on Camano Island. It was a perfect, calm day. I was trimming the edge of a flower bed when it came over me: I could become a priest. Not only could, but I should be a priest. It was the Holy Spirit. I waited. In fact I counted 40 days on a calendar. Each morning I woke up amazed the thought was still with me. After 40 days I told my best friend, then my parish priest, my family and my classmates. After graduating I entered the seminary - four years in Kenmore and four years in Rome.
Since that experience in the garden, I have had an inner certainty that this is God's call for me. I've had good days and bad days, lazy days and crazy days, but I have not doubted this is God's purpose for my life. Even though I've had my share of stress and anxiety, I've also experienced a deep satisfaction and joy.
Any of the anxiety is more than worth it to hear a child call me "father." Or when a young mom in Peru said to me, "Usted es mi padre." You are my father.
Bishop Sheen said that when we stand before God's judgement, he will ask, "Where are your children?" I hope I will be able to point to some of you and say, "These are my children." After Mass I will be offering individual and family blessings - along with photo op. You will need more than a picture when you arrive at the pearly gates - but it may help. Upload it to your cloud!
Before we get to Judgement Day, we have work to do here on earth. I have invited civic leaders to this event. At the end of Mass we will pray for them. St. Paul tells us to pray for those in authority that we might have peaceful lives. We see darkening clouds in our world and in our country. You and I are little people, but we have the power of prayer and the power to work together - for the things most important to us: our schools, health care, police, businesses, library, parks, roads and so on.
As Christians we have a particular command to reach out to those in distress - for example, through St. Vincent de Paul, Knights of Columbus, Take the Next Step, Catholic Community Services, Two Hearts Pregnancy Aid and much more. This is another reason to pray for local leaders because they provide the framework for our outreach to people in need. St. Paul took up a collection for the poor in Jerusalem, but he needed the Roman roads to get it to them. That's part of the reason Paul prayed for those in authority.
And we pray for our Church. We'll see that in action when conclude at 2 pm. I've asked local pastors to pray over me - that God will give me physical and spiritual health to continue as your pastor, your spiritual father.
I am honored by the presence of Deacon Gene and Deacon Leon. My brother priests, Fr. Jim Coyne we were together at St. Edward's Seminary and later at St. Mary Parish in the Central Area of Seattle. Fr. Jim Coleman, we studied in Europe at the same time and in recent decades have gone together to the Shakespeare Festival. Along the way we spend time with Bishop Liam Cary who is responsible for Eastern Oregon. And responsible for a huge part of Eastern Washington, Bishop Joseph Tyson. His first pastorate was here in Monroe. But I got the better part: St. Mary of the Valley is my final pastorate - and I am praying God will give us many more years together. (wait for applause) As we hear in the Gospel, Jesus saves the best wine until last.
We have challenges ahead. Our church has suffered humiliation and shame these past decades. Many have become discouraged. Well, the bottom line is not Phil Bloom - or even Bishop Tyson. The bottom line is Jesus. Why is there something and not nothing at all? is a big question. But an even more consequential question: Is Jesus who he says is? Many people abandoned him when he told them the truth. Jesus asks the Twelve if they also want to leave. Peter speaks for them all - and I hope for you and for me: "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God." Amen.
From Archives (21st Ordinary Sunday - Year B):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Take the Plunge Bible Study (audio resources) *New episodes for Summer - Kings and Prophets*
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru