22nd Sunday In Ordinary Time
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: September 1, 2019
I heard the Story of a priest who was visiting a L’Arche community in Europe. We will call him Fr. Frank. (L’Arche are communities where people with and without intellectual disabilities live, work, learn, and grow together). One of the founders was a Canadian, Jean Vanier. This priest who visited there was not a well man. He was recovering from a nervous breakdown and, although feeling stronger, had not yet regained full health.
On this particular day, the priest who was scheduled to celebrate Mass with the community did not show up. Fr. Frank offered to help. The people gratefully accepted and together they began to pray the Mass. But within a short time Fr. Frank became very nervous and lost all confidence. He stumbled and mumbled his way to the end of the Mass, feeling devastated and humiliated. How upset he was to have let the community down in this simple task! He wanted to run away and hide from the people who saw him in his weakness and helplessness.
After Mass the people came forward and hugged him. They were smiling and crying at the same time. They were saying to him that this was one of the most beautiful Masses they had ever been to! Fr. Frank could not understand their exuberant joy, as he was feeling the opposite.
Resisting their praise, he said, “How can you possibly describe this Mass as you have?” They replied, “But, Father, you are just like us. Thank you!”
These people, so often rejected by society, had recognized something of themselves in this priest as he celebrated the Eucharist. He truly represented Christ among them.
Who feels welcome in our parish, our church? The elderly, those coming on Darts and with walkers, children even when they are distracting, those struggling with mental illness, with depression, people finding life difficult now for various reasons?
Jesus tells the Pharisee that when he gives a banquet he should “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.” This is a symbol of the Kingdom of God, the God who receives all, who welcomes with special care those who seem unable to offer anything in return.
The humility that Jesus speaks about is not about putting myself down, but about raising up others. To be secure enough in myself that I do not need to put others down. Then I can be weak in front of others and others can be weak in front of me. Then we recognize each person as welcomed into the Kingdom of God. If God receives the other, how can we not receive them?
Our parish, our church, should be a community, a home where all feel welcomed, where all of us are able to be weak in front of each other. Where all are then lifted up in the grace and mercy of God.