Dear Parishioners and Visitors:
Last week Jesus told the parable of the day laborers who complained that the wage of the man who worked only one hour was unfair. This week we revisit this sentiment with God’s chosen people complaining that “The Lord’s way is not fair!” I suppose this reoccurrence of theme is “just in case we didn’t get it the first time.” The prophet Ezekiel challenged his listeners and he challenges us to decide if it is God’s ways that are unfair, or is it really our ways that are unfair. Gee, let’s see: are we close yet to figuring out whether or not our tax code is fair here in the great U.S. of A?
In the first two readings for today, both Ezekiel and Paul give solutions to our human quagmire of searching for justice and for what is fair. Ezekiel directs the people to “turn from their wickedness;” this will “preserve their lives” and help them to experience true justice. St. Paul instructs Jesus’ followers to “have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus,” and gives a whole long list of ways to acquire this holy correct attitude: “solace in love,” “participation in the Spirit,” having “compassion and mercy,” etc., etc., etc. But in the Gospel, Jesus also gives a direction and a guide for acquiring justice and lasting peace with the greatest challenge of all CHANGE YOUR MINDS!
Think about it. The first son who said “No, I will not!” but then did as his father had commanded, basically converted. Jesus, like so many prophets, judges, and kings in Israel before him, preached conversion. The difference is, of course, that Jesus offers conversion “through him, with him, and in him.” When we convert in Jesus and return to Holy Communion with him we are sanctified and redeemed! The gates of heaven are opened to us once again.
Now, there is also a very important element of Jesus’ Good News here that should not be lost on us. Jesus expects that we will learn over a lifetime. Some hard lessons of life we have to learn over, and over, and over again. [Who hasn’t experienced the truth of that?] Typically we ask, “When will I finally learn?” But see, Jesus knows that about us. As he asks us to forgive seventy times seven (unendingly), so he is willing to always forgive us when we are truly contrite, contrite meaning, with true sorrow and firm amendment. In the end, our life speaks a pattern of sincerely returning to the Lord (like the first son in the parable), or a pattern of deciding to wander aimlessly amidst our own human and imperfect goals that will pass and render us unworthy. It is on this that we will be judged. Let us pray for the grace to change our minds so motivated by our hearts configured to the sacred heart of Christ when it is just the right thing for a disciple to do.
PERSONAL NOTE… SO WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Last week including the weekend was a very emotion-filled and bucket-of-cold-water-in-the-face one with my announcement of a retirement date, June 30, 2018. I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support, for which I am forever humbled and grateful to God and to all of you!
At the conclusion of my homily I invited all of us, in the words of the late Bishop Donald Montrose, to “Finish Strong!” And I indicated that this meant we should rally to communicate the present moment of St. Rita Parish and our passion for its continued mission as the Roman Catholic Faith Community in Sierra Madre, The San Gabriel Pastoral Region and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. This is so important in preparation to receive a representative of the Priests Personnel Board and Vicar of Clergy’s Office and for the profile priests will receive who apply to be pastor of St. Rita.
I was asked the question: “Is there a chance that St. Rita might not receive a priest because of the shortage and therefore be combined with another parish?” I do not believe this is in the realm of possibility for two reasons: 1) I know that it is already presumed that priests will apply for St. Rita and that one will be chosen; and 2) the archdiocese is steering away from the “one priest for two parishes” model, because in most cases it just doesn’t work and is too hard on the people and the priest. It has become rare.
When will a representative come to visit and interview leadership? Probably in a couple of months. Whoever is designated by the Board to come will call and give a date and time. It is required that representatives of the pastoral council, finance council, and a cross section of leadership attend. Anywhere from 20 to 40 people make up the parish interviewees. (More than that is overwhelming to the representative and has a negative affect he or she needs a group that can actually have a conversation and allow the board representative to take notes and form a presentation to take back print out and share with board members and applicants. Trust me. I was on the board and made these visitations. I know of what I speak. By the way, the current pastor does not participate, but is interviewed separately.
It is easy to look down one’s nose at “things corporate,” but I do believe in the process for transition to a new pastor. It should almost be like a parish mission retreat for us, and a time of grace and blessing that is guaranteed when we place our trust in the Lord.
Together with you, Fr R.