Sunday, December 16
I find that one of the most enjoyable, yet challenging, tasks I am assigned as pastor of Old St. Pat’s and our Frances Xavier Warde School is preaching to the younger congregation. Nothing intimidates me more than trying to develop a homily that connects with children in first, second, and third grade! In fact I told one of our young deacons, Jordan Neeck, that if you can preach effectively to a group of kids in the lower grades, you will be most effective as a homilist. On All Saints Day, Jordan nailed it! He did a great job connecting the reality of “super heroes” to the lives of the saints to the modern day heroes who do God’s work in the world today.
Last week I assigned myself the responsibility of presiding and preaching for our school mass to celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
(I should have given this one to one of the deacons!) Although not nearly effective as Jordan, I tried to share an experience of what it was like being in the Fourth Grade and being chosen to play the role of Joseph in the Christmas pageant. While I found it pretty easy to fulfill that role in the classroom during rehearsals, when it came time to actually “perform” for the larger community in the big church at Christmas, I actually panicked. I was deathly afraid. While I seemed to have overcome my fear of standing in front of large crowds, being “front-and-center” in fourth grade on the main altar of our parish church was another story.
Just prior to Christmas eve arriving, while we were still in school, I remember going up to my 4th grade teacher, Sister Marguerite OP. She was none-too-happy that I was potentially balking on my job of being Joseph for the pageant. With tears in my eyes and a panicked look on my face, I admitted to Sister that I was afraid of being in front of the large crowd. In her compassionate way (not really) she looked at me and said firmly (in so many words): Just do it! (Sister may have gone on to sell that slogan to Nike, I’m not totally sure!) She would hear nothing else. We didn’t rehearse all these weeks of Advent for you to bail out at the last minute, was pretty much her message to me. She didn’t mince any words. She was firm, direct, and told it to me the way I needed to hear it. Have courage. Be strong. Just do it!
The gospel for this Third Sunday of Advent reminds me of Sister Marguerite’s words to me from so many years ago. At some point, we just have to do it. Although I didn’t like her words to me at the time, afterwards I discovered she was right. We heed the advice and the words of those spiritual wisdom figures in our lives and just do what we know is the right thing to do in order to bring about the kingdom of God. According to scripture, many people came out to the desert to ask John what they needed to do in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. John didn’t beat around the bush. He was unapologetic in his call for change and reform. If there’s a problem and you have the capacity to make it better, then just do it.
Thankfully in my adult years I have been blessed by spiritual directors who have had the insight and courage to set me straight on many issues: prayer time, reading and study, and healing that which is broken in my life. No excuses. You know what needs to be done. Just do it. It will make Christmas that much more meaningful.
Have a good Third week of Advent. Go Bears!
Father Tom Hurley