“Letters from Canada - 22” December 2015
Father Mark Miller: Preparing for a Sunday Sermon during Mass, sometimes is easy, sometimes arduous. This Sunday’s sermon is going to be a little of both. What I need to say is the easy part, finding the right words will be difficult.
Bishop Cornelius asked me to explain to my flock, why have I chosen to be involved in searching for Mary Bennet. Is it to overcome guilt for some personal shortcomings? Is it a crisis of faith or a struggle with internal demons that can only be conquered with a heroic accomplishment? Bishop Cornelius is giving me the benefit of the doubt that my motivation is compassion and empathy following in the footsteps of Jesus.
This Sunday, I am going to deviate from today’s Gospel lesson and instead talk to you about what I am working on in addition to my regular parish responsibilities. Someone in our family community is missing. Mary Bennet has left her home without telling family and friends of her whereabouts. Those who know and love her are very concern for her safety and wellbeing. Added to the concerns is the possibility Mary is pregnant. Her parents are doing everything in their power to find and help her. I along with my close friends Lawyer Susan Mayo, RCMP Officer Tom Colbert, and our beloved friend Linda Harriet are joining that effort.
Before I elaborate on why we are getting involve, let’s flashback to examples set by Jesus in the Gospels. In chapter after chapter Jesus is comforting, healing, feeding and paying attention to everyone and especially to those marginalize by society. For this many people liked Jesus and made Him feel welcome in their mist. By words and example Jesus was teaching us that we belong to God and each other. Future sermons we will elaborate on what is meant by belonging to God and each other.
Very many people in our world do not think or feel they belong or matter to anyone. They do not feel loved or think they are important or believe their lives really matter. For now let’s just focus if this is true in our church group. You need to take my word for it that there are people suffering such feeling right here in our church community. What makes me very sad is that those that are in pain don’t feel welcome or safe in our church. The whispering and gossip among some of our congregation that someone is “different, a loser or undesirable” hurts and turns away the very people that need our encouragement, comfort and support.
Like to give a real example of one such person and that would be me. Years ago I had moments of doubt of whether I was needed or wanted or useful. I am not unique in these feeling, because most of us here in church had experience similar moments during different stages of our lives. But I was lucky. Family and friends reassured me that they cared for me and I mattered to them. Using tactful language they told me to stop feeling sorry for myself, get my rear end in gear and do something important. As a consequence of all those people that were there for me in the past, I stand today before you as your Pastor.
An example of someone not so lucky in our Church is the short life of Joseph Timis (see Letters from Canada 12 & 13). He happened to be a Homosexual. When this became public, He was teased, ridiculed, embarrassed, and hated. The harassment did not just originate from shallow minded people, but also from prominent people who attend Mass every Sunday and profess their love for God and the Church.
His parents influenced by the wrongful teachings of the Catholic Church that homosexuality is a mortal sin and something to be condemned along with the feelings and attitudes of other family and friends made his life unbearable. To be fair there were also other complications that added to his dilemma and also contributed to his untimely death.
Before some of you in the pews panic about my statement “wrongful teachings of the Catholic Church “, keep in mind it is becoming more sociologically and scientifically evident that some people are born to be attractive to and fall in love with people of the same gender.
Another way to view this is that God has created some of us with different sexual orientations and to quote Pope Francis, “who am I to judge” good people that are homosexual. Keep in mind that sexual orientation which also includes sexual identity is not the only difference that our Creator bestowed on us. Let’s not forget we are different by race, attributes, skills, language, and more things than we have room to mention here. If we are to follow Jesus’s example we need to tolerate, respect and accept all Human differences.
Getting back to Joseph’s story, I blame myself for not responding quickly enough when I realized that He was in trouble. Talking to God during prayer about this, God told me to move on and be ready to take advantage of other opportunities to rescue other “lost sheep”.
Finding and helping Mary is that other second chance opportunity. If you believe that this parish community is a part of our extended family, then I ask you to join me in this effort.
You can start by talking to God also known as prayer. Some useful tips: God is not Santa Claus. No long list of things you want God to do or get for you. Instead tell God why finding Mary is important to you and what you plan to personally do with God’s guidance.
Second, remember that all of our family, friends and acquaintances are somehow connected. Grudges, feuds, and misunderstandings break the links of that connectivity. Someone in that broken circle may be very important and helpful to our task. On general principles, tell God what bridges you need to repair.
Third, promise God you will avoid petty and hurtful gossip. Be polite and kind to everyone with no exceptions. Be compassionate and comforting when needed.
Finally, in my search for Mary, I came across a young woman named Ginger (Letters 11 & 12). She seemed to have some knowledge about me, the parish, but most important she had info about Mary. Before I could ask more questions about Mary, She disappeared while I was distracted by a phone call. If anyone here knows anything about this person, please get back to me.
I close this sermon with a blessing that all of you and me with God’s blessing will find and bring Mary back into our parish family
After Mass, as I was greeting people leaving the Church, Mary’s parents, William and Alice Bennet thanked me for my efforts. Vinny, William’s associate glanced at me with a crooked smile. But my greatest joy was the hug I got from Steven, Mary’s little brother who whispered, you are like Jesus!