Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on the blog. My apologies to those who have been looking for some new content and been disappointed. It’s been kind of busy around the parish. And, I haven’t been putting homilies down on paper for several Sundays. If I published my notes in raw form you’d still be wondering what I said.
Speaking of being busy, last Saturday was one of those days that exemplifies how many directions a priest’s life can be pulled in one day, testing his emotional flexibility. I call it the “Priestly Hat Trick.” In hockey, when a player scores three goals in one game it’s called a “hat trick.” In my case it’s the not totally unusual conjunction of events that results in Father celebrating a Baptism, Wedding and Funeral all on the same day. You could say I celebrated a life time in one day, the beginning, middle and end. Except I did it in reverse. (Wasn’t there a movie about some man who got younger as his life progressed? And consulting the “almighty Google” it tells me that it was titled The Curious Case of Benjamin Button released in 2008.)
My day started with the funeral of a 96-year-old parishioner who had died at a local nursing home earlier in the week. She had macular degeneration, was very hard of hearing and in poor health at her death. I had anointed her just hours before she died, almost as if she were waiting for the assurance of the church that she would be healed of the corruptibility of this life. How much she must have seen and heard in the course of a rich experience of life only to have her world become so very limited at the end. I reminded those gathered for the funeral that we hoped through God’s mercy she had now broken out of these limitations to experience the unlimitedness of eternal life.
Then it was time to shift the emotional gears, so to speak. The wedding occurred next. A celebration of the promise of love on so many levels. The couple promised to love each other for life, of course. But love holds a promise, a pledge of sorts, that when we love in a sacrificial manner for the sake of another, Jesus is present. The church makes a promise to love the couple by standing with them, to support them, to help them in this task of sacrificing for the sake of each other, for we have a stake in the success of their marriage; we want to see Christ in our midst and we want the couple to preach Christ alive to the world by their union as husband and wife. Weddings are a promise to the church by Christ that he will be our bridegroom and carry us, his bride who he loves even to death on the cross, across the threshold of eternity.
Later in the afternoon it was time for the Sunday Vigil Eucharist during which I baptized an infant. Here’s were our life in Christ begins. The act of baptism seems so simple, be it immersing the baby or pouring water over her head. But we believe there are such profound consequences. The person is radically, forever changed in that water. A promise is given by Christ to give eternal life, to enable the human to share in the divine nature. The candidate for baptism (through the voice of the Godparents in this case) promises to live as Christ, willing to adopt as her way of life the sacrifice of the cross (the Paschal Mystery that death is what brings fuller life). Last Saturday the infant I baptized was set on her way on a journey of life in Christ that someday may include living out her baptism promise in the vocation of marriage and will certainly come to the moment of death. And at her funeral, the church will greet her at the door of the church building, the symbolic threshold between this life and the life of eternity and sprinkle water on her body remembering the day she was baptized when she was first given the promise of entrance to the eternal banquet of life we glimpse in the Eucharist held in that building.
Saturday, was also my birthday. I think my day was an appropriate way to celebrate it (although I was pretty dang tired by the end of it from all the emotional swings and demands on time – I guess I’m just getting old!). As I recalled the mystery and gift of life I’d been given, having been called into being by God, I was gifted the privilege of ritually celebrating the full cycle of life thereby invited to reflect on the gift I’d been given through the eyes of faith. The “hat trick” was a birthday gift from Christ inviting me to remember my life will be bookended, so to speak, as was my day, by the rites of baptism and the Order of Christian Funeral including a promise to love, not in marriage, but Holy Orders. Those sacramental moments that happened to all take place on November 5, 2011 are what give me hope. Those rites are the narrative that gives meaning to my life and that help me live life with hope, unafraid of the future that I know will come someday. They are what comfort me as I recall the anniversary of the death of my mother (November 3).
The hat trick day of a priest can be full of profound moments and opportunities to glimpse Christ at work in our midst and spiritual birthday thoughts. Still, I am hoping that I don’t again have that busy of a day too soon! Peace!