As we return to “Ordinary Time” it seems Jesus wants to challenge us regarding what we call everyday reality, that is, how we respond to Him, not just in great moments, but each day:
“If anyone wishes to come after me,
he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
People will often share with me their trials: a physical condition, an irresponsible husband, a son in jail, a child's anguish of listening to parents argue, a temptation that keeps coming back, a burden of guilt which they fear will become public. Much of what people suffer results from evil which can only be called diabolical. Why do we humans behave with such indifference and such downright cruelty? I do not know and I feel impotent as I listen. I promise some prayers and encourage them to take the trial to Jesus, truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. I do not have the solution but He does.
This Sunday at Holy Family we are offering Mass for a person who suffered greatly, but took her trials to Jesus. It is hard to believe a year has passed since the death of Sharon Carriere. She dedicated her adult life to serving this parish, first as volunteer and later as a staff member. Sharon was totally devoted to her husband, children and then grandchildren. At the same time she did extraordinary work for the parish community. When someone came with a difficult and complicated situation, Sharon regularly went beyond the call of duty. Since her death parishioners have given many moving testimonies.
What most people did not know was how much physical suffering Sharon lived with. For a couple of decades she fought a debilitating disease (Wegener's Granulomatosis) that caused her intense pain. In spite of the wearniness which overcame her, Sharon always had a smile and an upbeat spirit. She greeted each person with enthusiasm, giving them confidence they could share their concerns with her.
Some of the challenges of ministry likewise caused her pain. It is not easy having a job constantly dealing with the public. I remember once Sharon remarking to me that people today have a harder time communicating with each other. Instead of really trying to listen, they often just react. In her last years she worked mainly in helping people with marriage cases. She took criticism from people who did not understand Jesus’ clear teaching on the indissolubility of marriage – and therefore felt that divorce and remarriage should not be an obstacle to receiving Communion. But she also got comments from those who did not appreciate all that went into a declaration of nullity. Typically people based their criticisms not on a genuine attempt to understand, but simply on gut level reactions. Sharon of course knew better than most that the annulment process is imperfect. She also knew that, this side of heaven, the only Church we have is a frail, imperfect one.
Sharon weathered misunderstandings as one more part of the daily cross, a cross which couldn't be avoid, if she wanted to serve human beings. She knew that the cross itself would ultimately overcome all divisions. St. Paul says that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male or female. He does not mean those differences are insignificant. Jews and Greeks each have their unique genius - and what an impoverished world this would be if we erased the great accomplishments that came to us from those two groups! And, while human sexuality is the source of so much miscommunication, what a dull world if femininity and masculinity were done away with and we became some kind of bland unisex! No, those distinctions are vitally important - yet, compared with being in Christ, they are nothing. Christ, his cross, overcomes all division –and he does it by taking the best from each and transforming it into what it was ultimately created for.
A few days before Sharon died, I visited her in the hospital. Up to that point she had always spoken with me about unfinished work. Now she was weak, very weak. She could not talk, so I took her hand and said aloud a prayer. There seemed to be a peace. A job well done. But also a recognition that the real work is done by Jesus.
“Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
From Archives (Homilies for Twelfth Sunday, Year C):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Fr. Brad's Homilies
Fr. Jim's Homilies
Fr. Michael White's Homilies ("messages")
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
Parish Picture Album
Video of Corpus Christi Procession (June 2):
KRA's & SMART Goals (updated June 2013)
My bulletin column
(June 20, 2010)
St. Mary of the Valley Album
Bulletin (Father's Day, Sharon Carriere Library, Planned Parenthood, Opus Dei priest)
Discussion of attempts to soft-pedal torture
Don't use Reagan's passing to push a ghastly program
Pope on the image of the Inquisition
Another Canadian Bishop Speaks out on Politicians and Abortion
"And Also With You"
Tent City at St. Brendan's, Bothell: "It is an extension of the church's 2,000-year history of helping the most vulnerable people in our society" (Seattle Times article)
Holy Family Parish Luau (June 5, 2004)
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru