Sunday, May 12, 2019

Homily – Fourth Sunday of Easter – Goodbye

Acts 13:14, 43-52
Revelation 7:9, 14B-17
John 10:27-30

As we heard in our first reading from The Acts of the Apostles, Peter and Barnabas are on the move -- leaving one community for another.  
And so, too, am I.
After seven years serving Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Perpetual Help, this will be my final homily as your deacon.
As many of you heard last week, the Archbishop has assigned me to serve as pastoral leader of two parish communities in downtown Seattle.
To say I am nervous would be an understatement. This request came as a total shock and required much time in prayer, and discernment, in order to hear God’s voice and follow Him to places outside my comfort zone.
Today’s Gospel provides a beautiful image for discerning God’s voice in the difficult decisions we all make in our lives. The first thing we need to do is listen, listen closely for His voice. 
Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me.”
Let’s use the Archbishop’s request as an example of how to better hear God’s voice when discerning His will and follow His call in our lives.
For me, this was a most difficult discernment. The past year has been a blessing balancing parish ministry, Maryknoll ministry and MercyWatch ministry. I told the Archbishop this was the most painful decision of my lifetime.       
When discerning God’s voice, we must listen closely to the voices of those around us, pray continuously, and ask that God’s will to be done.
            Catholic author Joe Paprocki has the following prescription for discerning God’s voice when making big decisions in our lives: 
Talk to Someone You Respect
God often speaks to us through the wisdom of others. Seek out the wisdom of at least one and perhaps several people who YOU feel have the gift of wisdom and ask for their advice.
Find Some Solitude
It's good to talk to other people when making important decisions, but at some point, it is crucial to make some time to be alone with your thoughts and with God. Invite God into your decision-making process.
Start with What You Know
Lay out all of the facts in front of yourself so that you can deal with the known before you delve into the unknown!
Tell God What It Is That You Desire and What You Fear
Be honest and tell God what your deepest desires and fears are in this situation. Before you can say the words, “thy will be done,” be sure you are truly in touch with your own will; otherwise it will come back to bite you!
Let God Speak to You
Most of us don't actually hear a voice when God speaks to us. However, pay attention closely to the ways that God is speaking to you. What kinds of thoughts, feelings (especially love, joy, and peace, or a lack thereof), and memories might God be stirring within you to help you make your decision?
Know That God Has a Plan for You
Remind yourself that you are not on your own and that you don't have to yell and scream to get God's attention to help you in this matter. On the contrary, remind yourself that God has a plan for you and that His plan is driven purely by love.
Pray to Do God's Will
As difficult as it may be, pray the words, “Thy will be done,” asking God to give you the strength you need to continue to discern His will and to follow it.
If circumstances allow, wait before making your decision. Continue to pay attention to your feelings to see which direction you are being drawn to.
Prayerfully Commit
At some point, you need to act. Knowing that you have sought God's will, set forth to do the loving thing.  (PAUSE)
Now back to the Archbishop’s request…

It all started a year ago when I got a phone call from Vicar of Clergy’s office and told my name had been put forward to become pastoral leader for Christ Our Hope in downtown Seattle. Would I be open to consider it and meeting with the Bishop? I told them I’d pray on it and get back to them. A few days later I called back to say I’d be open to talking to the Bishop.
Hours before our meeting, I got a call from the Vicar of Clergy’s office with word that a priest would be taking the assignment instead.
"Good!," I thought.  I was already in conversations with Maryknoll and would eventually take a wonderful part-time job with the Mission Society. God was clearly in charge here.
Fast forward to a few months ago and there’s another phone call from the Vicar of Clergy’s office with an official request by the Archbishop to consider taking over the same parish. But there was a twist.
Christ Our Hope is being paired with St. Patrick Parish. The priest personnel board had recommended one pastoral leader for both parishes.  
That’s when discernment went into overdrive.
You see, St. Patrick is where my wife and I were married 33 years ago.
Christ Our Hope is my mother’s parish where she serves as volunteer keeper of sacramental records. But it’s also the parish where I served as celebrant for her sacramental marriage with my stepfather in 2013 (after 35 years of civil marriage).  Her Catholic faith came alive again during my formation to become a deacon.
God’s voice was sounding louder and clearer.
Christ Our Hope is located one block from the Pike Place Market and St. Patrick is on the North end of Capitol Hill. Both have strong commitments to those experiencing homelessness in downtown Seattle (an issue near and dear to my heart).
Christ Our Hope was built a decade ago on the first floor of a Catholic Housing Service low income housing complex and is a unique blend of affluent and those living on the margins (a reflection of early Christian communities). Outside the parish on the streets of Seattle is a beautiful statue of a homeless Jesus asleep on a bench. 
St. Patrick does a monthly feed at a woman’s homeless shelter where I spent several years doing the annual homeless count in downtown Seattle with its director and staff a decade ago.
In addition, the parish priest I’ll be working with is someone I know well and have worked with closely over the years.
Also providing solace in this discernment is the fact our parish community has two deacon candidates who will likely be ordained one year from this December. I am grateful knowing you will be in their capable hands moving forward.
In talking to the Archbishop last week, I told him I saw God’s fingerprints all over this decision and gave him an enthusiastic “yes.”
            In stepping into this new assignment, I want to take this chance to personally say, “thank you” to each and every one of you. These past seven years have been a blessing.          
            We will miss this community and all the deep friendships forged here over many years of service together.
I love you all. My life has been forever transformed by your presence in it.  Please know I will hold you in my prayers for the rest of my life and ask for your prayers as well. 
I will continue my ministry of service with MercyWatch in Everett.  And look forward to being invited back for weddings and baptisms in the parish.  So, we’ll probably see each other from time to time. 
I leave you with this quote from a favorite TV show on PBS: Call The Midwife.
“Landscapes shift in sunshine and in shade. There is light. Look for it. Look for it shining over your shoulder on the path. There was light where you went once. It is light where you are now. It will be light where you go again.”  
          May God bless you and keep you always. 

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