Friday, June 14, 2024

HOMILY – 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Seeds of Love


          This weekend we are “Sowing the Seeds of Love” in the Kingdom.

For two thousand years, disciples of Jesus have sowed the seeds of love throughout the known world. The fruit produced by these planted seeds has grown abundantly and changed the world.

The mustard seed is a powerful image for what lies ahead for our partnership with St. Anne Mission July 1st, a small, but important community. 

This weekend, Jesus is talking in parables.

          As Gospel writer Mark reminds us, “God’s ways are not our ways! We must be patient and let God be God!” (This last parable in Chapter 4) is about a seed, the smallest of all seeds, the mustard seed (vv. 30–32). Even though the early Christian community was small in number, this parable assures Mark’s readers that all their efforts will be fruitful in the growing kingdom of God — if they will just understand”[1] the parable of the seeds and how we plant them and let God tend to their growth.

The seed is also a symbol of new life and of change. Change can be hard for most of us.

Except when we trust in Jesus. 

For a moment, a brief update on your humble servant.

This is my first-time preaching (in English) since returning to Our Lady of Hope after an 18-month sabbatical.

Deacon Duane is taking Father’s Day weekend off being on the altar to be with his family and asked me to step in.

          As Fr. Joseph shared with you a few months back, my new assignment is to serve the Spanish language community at Our Lady of Hope, the Mission of St. Anne community and as Deacon of the Word at bilingual Masses here.

          My main ministry outside of the Church remains MercyWatch, providing street medicine and homeless outreach to our unhoused population in Snohomish County. These seeds were planted in this community eight years ago and continue to grow with God’s grace. I want to take this moment to thank the over one hundred parisioners who volunteer for MercyWatch.  

I am most grateful for this rare opportunity to stand before you today. 

My new parish assignment is a dream come true for this deacon.

It started with seeds planted with Archbishop Etienne in late 2021 as my three-year assignment serving as pastoral leader of Christ Our Hope and now closed St. Patrick Catholic Church in downtown Seattle was coming to an end.

He asked what I wanted to do next. I said, my dream was to serve a Church dedicated to a Native American community.

Little did I know then what would come of our pairing with St. Anne Mission as part of the Partners in the Gospel.

You may wonder why St. Anne Mission was paired with Our Lady of Hope. I can assure you it had nothing to do with my conversation with the Archbishop.

It had everything to do with how our two communities are already connected.

Did you know Our Lady of Hope School has about 30 families and a little over 40 students from the Tulalip Tribe? Or that many of our former IC-OLPH church and school members now live on Mission Beach and Priest Point and many attend St. Anne Mission?

These are among the many reasons for the pairing.

St. Anne Mission has a beautiful history. One you should know about. 

While it is a smaller parish community, it has an important history in the Archdiocese of Seattle thanks to seeds planted 175 years ago.

It was the third Catholic Church founded in 1857 (32 years before Washington was even a state) in what would become the Seattle Archdiocese, at the time called the Nesqually Diocese.

A Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate priest named Fr. Eugene Casimir Chirouse asked permission from tribal leaders to live on what would become Priest Point and build a Mission Church there.

Fr. Chirouse was called “the Apostle of the Puget Sound” Native Americans.

He was instrumental in baptizing over 500 Native Americans in the Catholic faith, including Chief Sealth (or Chief Seattle the namesake our Archdiocese) who would serve at the first Mass at St. Anne Mission and be confirmed there.

This came after a sad chapter two years earlier when the Treaty of Point Elliott was signed in what is now known as Mukilteo.

The treaty moved Native Americans from their lands in what is now Seattle, King County and elsewhere to the Tulalip and other reservation lands.

Fr. Chirouse followed the natives to the Tulalip to help tend his seeds of love.

The French priest even learned the Lushootseed language and translated the bible for his many followers. He brought with him a “French Madonna” and a Church bell that continue to adorn the Mission Church today.

Over time, Fr. Chirouse became a beloved figure in the Native American community.

His Oblates Order decided to move Fr. Chirouse from his assignment on the Tulalip in 1878.

From the St. Anne Mission website is this intriguing slice of history:

In 1878, the Tribes wanted to petition the Pope to let ‘their Father’ stay, rather than be transferred. Their request was denied. When he returned for a visit in 1891, 400 Tulalip (natives) camped at the Mission for a celebration. Father Chirouse gave last rites to Chief Seattle (Sealth)… and presided over his Requiem Mass.”

           The original Church location on Priest Point burned to the ground in a suspicious fire shortly after the U.S. Government took over tribal schools from the Sisters of Providence.

          The church was rebuilt in 1904 at its current location near Mission Beach and its pastor Fr. Paul Gard restored the Madonna and bell to the new site.

           In recent years, Jesuit priest Fr. Pat Twohy served this community for over 20 years. He also became a beloved figure to the Native Americans on the Tulalip and other mission Churches on tribal lands throughout Western Washington.

          In other words, we will be standing on the shoulders of giants as we step into this important mission (no pressure, Fr. Joseph).

On this Father's Day weekend, the seeds of love planted by three fathers: Fr. Chirouse, Fr. Gard and Fr. Twohy are what Our Lady of Hope is about to inherit. 

What a blessing it will be for all of us to tend this important garden in the Kingdom of God. 

[1] Bergant, D., & Karris, R. J. (1989). The Collegeville Bible commentary: based on the New American Bible with revised New Testament (p. 913). Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Memorial Homily – Barbara Ivester

Wisdom 3:1-6

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Matthew 5:1-12


There’s a story told about St. Kateri Tekakwitha (the first Native American woman declared a saint by the Church) that reminded me of Barbara.

Saints are everywhere. Holiness is not limited to nuns, or priests, or deacons. It is something attainable by everyone. And holiness is the first step to sainthood.

When word of the Mohawk convert’s passing circulated throughout New France in the Americas in the spring of 1680, the news was a simple declaration: “The saint is dead.” 

Didn’t we all feel that way when we heard the shocking news of Barbara’s sudden passing? Our holy and saintlike friend was gone too soon.

There’s a deep Jesuit connection to St. Kateri (thanks to documentation by Jesuit missionaries of her life of holiness in the 17th Century). The miracle that led to her Canonization in 2012 happened in our own backyard when a young Lummi Nation boy with a lethal, flesh-eating bacteria was suddenly cured one day after a relic of then Blessed Kateri was laid on a pillow next to his head during a prayer service at Seattle Children’s hospital. His miracle cure could not be explained by doctors.

Today, Jake Finkbonner is a recent college graduate with plans to become a doctor himself. The power of a life touched by a saint.

All of us were touched by the holy life of our friend Barbara.

If you open the worship aid to the back page, you’ll see a cherished picture of Barbara with one of our native friends on the streets of downtown Seattle. Rick Williams is a well-known native wood carver.

St. Kateri Tekakwitha is the patron saint of native Americans. She’s also the patron saint of ecology and the environment, something near and dear to Barbara’s heart. I envision St. Kateri and Barbara chatting together in heaven now. 

How perfect that her husband Paul chose today’s Gospel reading from Matthew because Barbara lived the Beatitudes every day.

It was who she was. With her family. With her friends and choir mates. With those she met on the street with Sacred Encounters.

We started Sacred Encounters on Holy Week 2021. Barbara was one of the first to step forward from St. Patrick to join this shared ministry with Christ Our Hope.

She confided in me as she joined our team: “I’m afraid of homeless people.”

I told her, “You’ve come to the right place.”

Barbara knew the poor were blessed. Jesus says so in today’s Gospel.

It’s just that some of our unhoused friends can be a little scary.

What does Jesus mean by “blessed” in Beatitudes? What’s he really saying here?

The word has two meanings in Hebrew.

One meaning points “more to what is inward… while the other denotes… what comes to us from without.”[1]

Eight in number, the Beatitudes paint a picture of Jesus’ vision for the Kingdom here on earth. Everything considered “cursed” or “unfortunate” in our human eyes becomes blessed in Jesus’ eyes.

Jesus turned his world (and our world) upside down with the Beatitudes and forces us to face our preconceived notions about things.

After our very first session walking the streets of downtown Seattle, showing love to those experiencing homelessness, Barbara turned to me and said, “I’m no longer afraid.”

Her eyes had been opened by sharing Jesus’ ministry of love on the margins.

Indeed, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”

Jesus’ words fueled the cookies she baked and the sandwiches she and Paul made together for the unhoused, the miles she walked to share the ministry of presence with them, and the heart she poured out to the poor and marginalized.

She understood that the Beatitudes are not necessarily about “the poor in spirit, the meek, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and those who suffer persecution in their search for holiness—these are not different people or kinds of people, but different demands made on EVERYONE who wants to be a disciple of Christ.”[2] 

Jesus Christ wants us all to become living saints by living the Beatitudes. Like our beloved Barbara.

In First Corinthians, we heard Jesus’ law of love. St. Paul shared this with the people of Corinth to get them to change their heartless ways.

At the time of his letter, there were great divisions in the Christian community in Corinth. The well-heeled were treating their poorer neighbors as second-class citizens by making them sit in the back of the Church.

Privilege guaranteed proximity. This is not what Jesus expects of us. And Paul knew it.

It’s why he used his letter to crack heads, in a love-filled way.

If ever we’re ever scolded, don’t we all want to be scolded by someone who uses the love-filled words of St. Paul?

And remember, the Greek word used here for love actually translates to charity. That changes the entire context of this famous passage.
           Charity (love) is what drove Barbara to serve on the margins. This form of love flowed from her weekly on the streets of Seattle.

Barbara’s sudden passing at such a young age has left us all reeling and feeling lost.

Paul, Henry, and Nate, you are surrounded by hundreds of people who share your mourning and who loved and respected this amazing and humble woman. Thank you for sharing her with us.

 To Barbara’s mother Janet, and sisters Shelley and Cathy and brother Andy, know Barbara is right now sharing time Stephen in heaven. And will be watching over you all in this earthly life.

   To all of Barbara’s St. Pat’s friends, her music and actions will ring in our hearts forever. She’s now joined the choir of angels. Can’t you just imagine her voice now? It must be glorious.

To all of Barbara’s Sacred Encounters friends, her spirit walks with you every time you’re on the streets of this fair city, spreading the Gospel of love. She’s now watching over all our unhoused friends.

           The soul of our righteous friend Barbara is in the hands of God,

and no torment will ever touch her. In the eyes of the foolish she seemed to have died, but she is at peace.

Yes, the saint is dead.

But she is now alive in Christ forever.

[1] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 17). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[2] Saint Matthew’s Gospel. (2005). (p. 48). Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

HOMILY – 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Humility


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           Well, here we are.

At the end of our journey together, the closing chapter of the 105-year story of St. Pat’s.

Soon we will step over the threshold into a great unknown.

But Jesus is with us today and forever. And Jesus promises us all new life. Now we need to hold on tight to that promise.

We are collectively in a place of vulnerability.

Thankfully, mercifully, this weekend’s readings are perfectly crafted for us, with a divine message from our creator about how we are to approach our next journeys.

In our first reading from Sirach, we hear we are to,

conduct (our) affairs with humility,
 and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble (oneself) the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.

           It is as if the message is coming to us “from Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem and countless angels in festal gathering” are watching over our final day together.

           Then Jesus speaks to us through the Gospel to reminds us,

“For every one who exalts himself (or herself) will be humbled, but the one who humbles (herself or) himself will be exalted."

           In his book Humility: The Beauty of Holiness, author Andrew Murray said to remember Jesus when thinking of a model for humility.

Here’s what he said,

“Christ humbled Himself, therefore God exalted Him. Christ will humble us, and keep us humble; let us heartily consent, let us trustfully and joyfully accept all that humbles; the power of Christ will (then) rest upon us. We shall find that the deepest humility is the secret to truest happiness, of a joy that nothing can destroy.”

In our Gospel story today, Jesus is helping us to understand what humility looks like in our human world.

           He’s about to break bread with a hostile audience of Pharisees and lawyers.

As Luke’s Gospel puts it, the guests had Jesus under close scrutiny. These are people who held grudges against Jesus and were lying in wait for him to slip up and say something they could persecute him with.

To add insult to injury, this is the Sabbath and a few moments before today’s Gospel passage, Jesus cured a man on the Sabbath, a no-no in Jesus’ world.

But Jesus seizes the moment to feed our souls with an important lesson in humility.

           Jesus is teaching us how to approach him, how to approach God, how to approach heaven, how to approach each other without airs of superiority or entitlement.

Not as people believing ourselves worthy of something, but as people who are totally dependent on the mercy of God for our very being, for every gift in our life, and for our potential future entrance into heaven.

Webster’s Dictionary defines humility as:

“The quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people”

In God’s eyes, we are humble when we are free of pride, arrogance, and self-reliance. 

God desires us to not think of ourselves as better than others.

That thinking only generates bitterness and division. And can lead to embarrassment when overstepping our place with God and with our brothers and sisters.

In other words, if we walk around with our noses up in the air, we may fall flat on our faces.

One bible scholar said the Mediterranean world in Jesus’ time was an honor/shame-based culture and “the social gaffe of overstepping one’s station, such as Jesus describes, would have been a mortifying experience.”  

But he says this “points to the proper disposition toward God and how we define our need for God’s salvation in our lives. Social self-inflation is equated with spiritual self-inflation.”

This is the lesson Jesus wants us to learn this weekend. 

           Drop our airs of self-importance. Get real.

And Jesus wants us to pay close attention to the poor, the marginalized, and the outcast.

Jesus reminds his fellow guests (and us) that a true act of generosity is one given to someone who can give us nothing in return, who cannot repay us, whose very social standing carries with it no prestige, no honor.

This is the exact way Jesus went about doing good, by emptying himself for others (especially the poor, marginalized and outcast) without counting the costs.

Are we prepared to do the same?

Once again, Jesus is sharing what’s expected of us as we build up the Kingdom here on earth.

All we need to do is listen and follow his lead. 

I am humbled by the many friendships built these past three-plus years with you all. We’ve walked together on a most difficult path.

I love you all. And you will be forever in my heart and in my prayers.

As we move forward, sisters and brothers, please never forget that Jesus is with us every step of the way. Even when we feel abandoned by our institutional Church.

One of my St. Pat’s friends shared a beautiful quote that speaks to this moment.

           Thank you, Lisa Dennison, for sharing this.

It comes from Irish priest and poet John O’Donohue.  I leave you with his words (and will let an Irishman have the last word in this final homily):

“At any time, you can ask yourself: At which threshold am I now standing? At this time in my life, what am I leaving? Where am I about to enter? What is preventing me from crossing my next threshold? What gift would enable me to do it? A threshold is not a simple boundary; it is a frontier that divides two different territories, rhythms, and atmospheres.

At this threshold, a great complexity of emotions comes alive: confusion, fear, excitement, sadness, hope. This is one of the reasons such vital crossings were always clothed in ritual. It is wise in your own life to be able to recognize and acknowledge the key thresholds; to take your time; to feel all the varieties of presence that accrue there; to listen inward with complete attention until you hear the inner voice calling you forward.

The time has come to cross.