Sunday, November 20, 2016
By: Fr. Tom Hurley
A few weeks ago, in expressing my gratitude for the great work and accomplishments of our Crossroads Runners who ran the Chicago Marathon in support of our social outreach efforts here at Old St. Pat’s, I reflected briefly on my own experience of being encouraged by our own Coach Brendan to “give it a try” ten years ago….and so I did. Back then, when I was the associate pastor of Old St. Pat’s with perhaps a little more time on my hands than I do today, I thoroughly enjoyed the summer of training leading up to the hype and excitement of race day. (Okay, “enjoyment” of training and running multiple miles in the heat and humidity might be an exaggeration but…let me finish!) What I really did enjoy, actually, that first summer of 2006, was being part of a team. After Coach Brendan invited me to consider the October race as my goal, I appreciated even more the responsibility of showing up on Saturday mornings and Wednesday evenings to be part of the group runs.
Even though being part of a running team wasn’t exactly the same as being recruited, drafted or accepted to a baseball, soccer, basketball, or football team, I very much felt a deep accountability to be present for everyone else in the group. Not only did I meet new people (some of whom are members of Old St. Pat’s), but I felt very connected to those women and men who were running with me at the same pace and likewise having the same struggles with the heat, aches and pains, and believing that 26.2 miles was actually achievable. It had been a long time, since I was a kid playing baseball at the local park, that I actually felt a deeper bond and responsibility to a group of athletes who were going for the same goal I was. I really loved the feeling of being part of the team. I only wish my hectic life as pastor, and being responsible for so many weddings throughout the course of the summer Saturdays, would allow me to regain that feeling of team affiliation and be able to show up for all those early runs. Sadly, it just hasn’t worked out for me the past few years.
It’s important to be connected. Just as being part of any team brings with it responsibility and accountability, so too do I find that be so essential for our life today. Last weekend, in the wake of this historic and unusual election, I could feel from so many people (including myself) a sense of uncertainty, anxiety, disappointment, and fear over so many issues affecting our country. While I believe (and I spoke of this last Sunday) that in the face of challenges and broken systems, we as a Christian Catholic people need to reclaim the Message and likewise the Messenger (Jesus!) to strengthen the core of our lives. No matter how the election turned out, I think everyone would acknowledge that there is a deep divide in our country today. We experienced a very rough and ugly campaign for several months that kept many of us shaking our heads. It’s time for us to remember the team. It’s time for us to remember our clarion call as disciples on the same team with the Risen Lord to strengthen the core values and renew the goodness of all people. Now is not a time to run and hide and quit the team. Just as the heat and humidity of a Chicago summer can make marathon training grueling and unappealing, we made a commitment to each other and we can’t give up.
I would also like us to consider this sense of connectivity when it comes to our experience of being Church. We need each other. And while I know and can see that in our consumer society, it’s easy to pick and choose when we want to be part of something or not, I think NOW, more than ever before, we have to strengthen our resolve to a holier communion with each other and with the Lord. We can’t allow individualism or selfishness take over. We need to work hard at promoting a deeper sense of community, both in our country and within the church. I hope and pray that this coming year will be for all of us a time to recommit ourselves to the life and community of Old St. Patrick’s. We are weaker and less united when you are not here. Old St. Pat’s is blessed with so many great people who come from near and far. We have all committed ourselves to making this place a community of believers whose energy comes from our hospitality, lively worship, and a desire to serve. Let’s strengthen our bonds and our sense of responsibility to each other. The next generation needs us and they need for us to witness the beauty and grace of what living in community, in the bond of Holy Communion, is all about. Blessings to you this Thanksgiving Week! I hope you will join us on Thursday for our wonderful Thanksgiving Day mass at 10 a.m. It’s always a joyful experience. If you’re traveling, be safe and we’ll see you during the days of Advent beginning next Sunday. I am so grateful for all of you.