Fr. David’s farewell homily November 13, 2016.
What to say?
30 years is a long time. Yet, it seems like yesterday that we friars came among you – and if you’ll permit me a small opening of my heart, these past years have been among the happiest years of my life. I have my brothers, Mark and Bill, Steve Patti and Steve Kluge to thank for that. I have those of you, our staff, with whom I minister, to thank for that, working for the church is not always a piece of cake, but our lay staff works here as a vocation, a calling. I have my Christian and Jewish and Muslim colleagues in this city, to thank for that. Working and witnessing alongside them has been life giving for me, and I have you, the people of St. Francis of Assisi parish to thank for that.
How to thank you?
Perhaps by doing again what I have tried to do each week – offering an image that connects with your life, and using that image to break open the word of God, and then telling you, not what to do, but simply reminding you again of who you are.
From time to time I have mentioned a contemporary American writer with a Catholic imagination, Andre Dubus. He was paralyzed in a roadside accident as he stopped to assist a stranded driver. I love Dubus very much. I find him so human, so flawed, a tragic figure yet redeemed. When all is said and done, aren’t we all?
Consider the scene. He’s in the kitchen with his wife. They are having scrambled eggs. He writes:
“She and I and the kitchen have become extraordinary: We are not simply eating; we are pausing in life’s march. And the meal offered and received offered is a sacrament which says: ‘I am sharing food with you. It’s all I can do and it’s everything.’”
How many times have you sat down with someone you love, paused in life’s march, been nourished, on one level by the food, but on a deeper level, by that person’s presence? You may not think to call it a sacrament, but sacrament it is: a holy moment of nourishment. Holding together body and soul, flesh and spirit, this world and the next, sustained by another, by others, and sustained by Christ – that’s the struggle of life, isn’t it?
I’m ever aware of how indebted I am to you for everything that you so generously offered me over the 9 years I was pastor of the parish and the past 10 years I have served as an associated pastor. I know all too well my personal limitations and fears, but you have helped me deal with them by opening your arms and hearts to me and assisting me in carrying out the ministries of this wonderful church.
You have also helped me to answer the question of who Jesus Christ is in a new, fresh way. You have privileged me with many opportunities to witness the depths of your devotion to the well being of those in need. This has been an inspiration to me. I’ve been a witness to some of your struggles, joys, anguish and hope. Even you occasional moments of weakness and failure, that at times some of you would share with me, would reveal a beautiful presence of Christ in disguise.
And at times, when I felt weak and struggling, your prayers and support, your tolerance of my limitations and imperfections, have enabled me to know better a tender presence of Christ. So many times, I’ve been touched and humbled by the goodness of people here at this parish, and I know that I’m only scratching the surface of it.
You are a great faith community. I’ve been proud of this parish and will continue to speak of this community with admiration. My hope and prayers are that you will remain faithful to the vision that has made this parish a sign of hope in our city, in our state and far beyond. May the Eucharist that we celebrate together help us to plumb the depths of who Jesus Christ is and what He asks of us. And may it indeed, as we’ll pray in the Eucharistic prayer, empower us to, “advance the peace and hope of all the world.”
Your prayer, your awareness of the world’s suffering, your sensitivity to the struggle for Christian unity, and interfaith unity, your challenge to this church of ours to be the prophetic voice of Jesus, this is the commission of your baptism. You are the church! Living water wells up inside you. You are baptized into Christ. His mission is your mission.
A great priest who has inspired me all my life is Bob Hovda. He died a few years ago. His Bishop called him in one day, having received criticism of his pastoral practices, of his association with Muslims, Jews, and Buddhists, his prophetic voice on behalf of women in the church, his pacifism, his support of the LGBT community. “Bob,” he said. “The trouble with you is that you have a messianic complex.”
Bob replied, “I thought we all were supposed to have one.”
Have messianic complex, my fellow Christians. Believe it: You are Christ in this world.
There is no better analogy for this Eucharistic meal we share than the human meal we share and eat. What we do at home, what we do in the workplace, and what we do in the sharing of our bread. Here is celebrated and becomes Christ eaten and shared. We are made one with Him because we are becoming one with each other. We feed on Him because we have fed on one another. Our hunger is never fully satisfied by either one.
What a dignity is yours, oh Christian!
Thank you for living that out for me these past years. To those of you I may have offended, forgive me. I am reminded each day that I am a sinner. May God continue to bless you, those you love, and those you struggle to love.
Remember me in your prayers, won’t you? It’s been a joy to have been with you. I’ll miss you.
All the best.