Thursday, August 11, 2005

Sunday Homily

I preach here on Sundays every two months or so. Thought I would pass this one on to you - along with some pictures of Doris . She is a wonderful person - a class act.

Nineteenth Sunday of the Year Homily

My Mom lives in an assisted living facility called Christwood, in Covington, Louisiana. It has a strong connection with the local Episcopalian church. I remember when the board of directors visited our home, before Mom moved, and went over all the attractive qualities to life at Christwood.

That was ten years ago. A lot of mom’s friends moved there so the transition was not as hard as it would have been had she been a total newcomer. A strange place, at an advanced age, brings with it a lot of fear. We all like the known and familiar. Everyone seems to take for granted the name of the place – they do not talk much about whatever relationship exists between Christ and the name of the residence. But there is a fairly recent arrival who took notice, in a very lighthearted way. Her name is Doris. I was there shortly after she arrived and was struck by how friendly she was. She made the rounds of all the tables, introduced herself and gradually took a sincere interest in the new lives in her midst. As far as I know, she is the only person of Jewish faith in Christwood. I know of no Temple or Synagogue in that area. Christwood has become the place where she lives her faith and, in her own way, shares it with others.

Not long ago, when I was there, there was a party and she offered to take pictures of my family with her digital camera. It is said that you can tell something about a person by the way that they drive. Well, you can tell a lot about Doris if you ever see her handle a camera and work the crowd in front of the lens. She was so happy to be of help – she told us all to smile, made jokes, made us feel at ease in front of her lens. She handled her camera like a pro. I could not help but notice that she was not at all afraid of it. She knew every dial, angle and trick of that camera. She had obviously read the manual and that was that – she went to town with her new gadget and did so with joy.

She is a living example of how user-friendly things can and should dispel fear.

The Gospel should be as user-friendly.

As early as the third century, this gospel has been used as a sort of mini-manual to encourage us to not be afraid. We are encouraged to trust the Lord and not sink into the rough seas of life. Yet, as often as we hear it, it is perhaps as common to experience a fear of losing its meaning. Fear is a pervasive experience in life. We all need occasional, if not daily, reminders to let go of our fears and do what we can to live life with faith, hope and love.

The first reading suggests that God’s presence in our lives may be as subtle and as every-day-like as a whisper. God is always there, in and through the most ordinary things.

My mom was recently sick and on the night she came home from the hospital, there was a knock at her apartment door. I opened it and there stood Doris. I asked her in but she said she did not want to bother us, but that if she could do anything, to just let her know. “I’m never that far away,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to ask for whatever you need, okay?”

She said that in a whisper, and quietly peeked into the room and told my mom not to be afraid because she was home with friends. “We are always here,” she said.

Some day, I hope to ask Doris how it was that she overcame whatever fear she had of befriending so many people – how it was that life has become for her something of a Temple where she has daily found a sense of God. She may just tell me, in a whisper, that it is easy to find what is always there.

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