Sunday, August 4, 2019
I’m guessing that all of us can probably identify a moment in our lives that was, without question, “formative.” It shaped us. It had the power to shift our consciousness and make us think, believe, and perhaps pray differently. Some may label it “a wake-up call.” It may have been an experience of something we saw, something we did, or something said to us by another person. And I don’t think we’re limited to just one “life changing” experience. We may have had a few.
I’ve shared some of mine before through sermons and this is one of them. As I mentioned last week in my homily (and many of you know this already if you’ve been around Old St. Pat’s for a while), I was only 16 years old when my sister died back in 1983. She died suddenly, tragically, and most unfortunately at the hands of someone else, the details of which I will leave for another day. It was an event that threw my life and the life of my family upside down. I often reflect on those days surrounding her death because they were so life-changing for all of us in my family. While I spoke of my heroic parents last week in the homily and about their unflinching, undying, and unconditional love to raise my sister’s three children after her death (starting all over again raising kids in their mid-50’s!), there was yet another moment that was both ugly and sacred at the same time.
A year after her passing of April 10, 1983, the tragic events of that day sent the situation of her killing and the accused, her estranged husband, to trial. They were ugly, bitter, and overwhelmingly emotional days; days that I never wish to live through again. Emotions were high and the anger was palpable, especially between two families, ours and “his” (a name I’d rather not use publicly in written or spoken form). One day, after the court went into recess, we were standing outside of the courthouse at 26th and California. A member of his family walked by me and without flinching, I blurted out something so raw and nasty it caught everyone’s attention. While I felt ‘tough’, manly, and relieved because I was like a volcano erupting, inside of me I felt like dirt. Despite being momentarily relieved, how could such a thing come out of my mouth?
That afternoon, when we got home from 26th street, my mother ushered me into the living room (a lot happened in that living room). She sat me down and with a mother’s tone and a look on her face that meant business, she started her “lesson.” “Tom, I wasn’t outside when whatever happened took place, but I was told by one of your siblings what you said and I’m very disappointed. Son, there’s no one angrier than me about this whole situation but the only thing I can say, based upon what you said: that’s-not-you!” I remember her words piercing my heart as if she said them yesterday. I cried. She cried. And I got the message.
I think about the guy in the gospel today who built those barns, had all sorts of stuff, and sat back feeling fulfilled, rich, tough, and relieved that everything was going so well for him. The “stuff” of who we are is demanding. God demands better of us. My mom demanded “better” of me that July afternoon in 1984 and for the rest of my life. I needed to hear from my teacher/my mother that tough, vulgar, hateful language is not the stuff of who I am or I am called to be, as her son or as a person. More is demanded of me because of the gifts that are in our internal barns and warehouses. We carry a lot of stuff and the demand of life is that we use it all wisely.
Have a great day here at Old St. Pat’s and a blessed week ahead.
Father Tom Hurley
PS: I am gone today, August 4 and next Sunday too, August 11. This Sunday I am in Portland, Oregon doing a wedding for a young couple from Old St. Pat’s, John Paul and Lauren. I’m doing an “away game”! Next Sunday I will be with about 40 people from Old St. Pat’s on a River Cruise down the Danube in Europe. Grateful for this opportunity to get away.
PSS: I have two appeals to throw out there: First, we are in need of some conference chairs for the Fr. Wall Mission Center for one of our meeting rooms. If any of your offices or businesses are looking to donate some gently used conference chairs, Old St. Pat’s could use them and I would be most grateful. Secondly, our church pick-up truck died this past week! Several years ago, a wonderful member donated the used truck we have today (It’s a 2001 truck). If anyone has any ideas on how we could secure a similar pick-up truck, could you let Tom Borah (email@example.com) or Jake Blake (firstname.lastname@example.org) know. Thanks so much to all of you for your continued generosity.