Encountering Christ in the obnoxious

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After the mass today a man told me he was deeply distressed by my homily. I had just finished presiding at the 10:30 AM liturgy at the Alibrandi Catholic of Syracuse University and was saying goodbye to people.

I listened to the gentleman’s point of view. He was an older guy, clearly not a student and was an immigrant to the US. He came to the country legally and was distressed that I was promoting illegal immigration. I think he missed the point of the homily.

There was no reasoning with him. Then it switched into how I was disrespecting the Lord by having abandoned him while spending time greeting people… in other words, I hadn’t purified the vessels of mass yet.

At that point I told him that it was strange that he was more concerned about the possible speck of Eucharist on the paten than about his brother in Christ who was facing a family tragedy. Strange. He argued some more until I told him he was just being obnoxious and left. This happens more than you think. It’s sometimes hard to keep people on target with the point of a homily. I guess he was probably deeply hurt by the Church or a priest or something and was just looking for an excuse to vent or complain. I guess I should pray for him, eh. Read the homily for yourself. What do you think?alibrandi

On Columbus day I joined a small group of people who walked from the Franciscan Church of the Assumption on the NorthSide to the offices of Congressman Dan Maffei.

Our group was part of a movement called: Franciscan Action Network which is Franciscan Friars, Sisters and regular folks working for social justice. In this case we were walking to promote support immigration reform in congress.

During our walk to the congressional office I met a man named Trinidad. He was a short older gentleman from Columbia. He shared with us his journey to this country and how he faces tremendous poverty and gang violence back home in his country. He vowed to make his family safe.

He like many other Columbians surmounted tremendous odds to get to the US including dangerous gangs, organized crime, extreme hunger and thirst to get through the desert and into the safety the USA provides.

In the US he worked as a farmer and over many years got married had children and was able to regularize his status in the US.

Unfortunately one day it was discovered there was a problem with his wife’s documents and she was arrested, detained and ordered deported from the country back to Columbia.

Trinidad’s entire world is caving in around him. He doesn’t know what to do. He can’t live without his wife and young children. But he also knows there is no work or safety or future for him in Columbia. What is he supposed to do?
He reaches out for help!

Although our lives may not always be as dramatic and tragic as Trinidad’s, we too can face situations that feel overwhelming, when we don’t know what to do and we feel we have no way out. Whether it’s the pressure of school building up, problems with relationships, financial worries or family issues the future can sometimes scare us and we feel tired of carrying it all.

The readings of mass give us a glimpse today of what we might do.
First of all the reading from Exodus describes how Moses who is supporting Amalek in battle grows tired of keepingh is arms extended out in blessing. He literally has the world on his shoulders. But Moses has friends with him… they help him. Get him to sit down and Aaron and Hur help him keep his arms up in blessing.

God does not only create us as individuals, he also creates us for community. We are meant to reach out to our friends in our need and to ask for support. As friends we are called to literally be our brother or sisters keeper and notice when they are in need and help them.

Helping, serving and caring for others is at the heart of the Gospel. As Pope Francis has been telling us the Church does not need any more frozen statues. The Church needs people who joyfully put their faith in service of others. That’s what it means to be a Catholic. That’s what it means to be Church.

It also means that when we need help, we should never be afraid to reach out to help. To ask our friends to be there for us. To tell others what we need. That’s also what it means to be Church.

As we continue with this Mass we are reminded that in the Eucharist, God gives himself totally to us to feed us and strengthen us for the journey ahead. God is like that persistent woman who never gives up. God never gives up on us. God never gives up caring for us.

Let us ask the Lord to help us ask for help when we need it and also be that helping friend to those in need… to people like Trinidad seeking safety for his family, to the homeless woman on the street or the person sitting next to us in Church today who just might need a smile.

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