From Father's Desk

Dear Friends,

Since coming here over three years ago, I have participated in several parishioner game watches - mostly the Eagles. One especially contentious playoff game led to very animated fan activity. Some in the room threw things. Colorful language was everywhere. Then in a moment, someone said: “Watch it guys, Father is here!” And the moment passed. Now those who know me well will tell you that I am no schoolboy. From time-to-time certain use of colorful words really gets the job done. For me, proper language is situation specific.

But what brought a smile to my lips was the notion that the rules would be different if I were in the room. I felt like saying: “Don’t mind me, mind God.” The rules are the same with or without me present. Granted, it does hurt my ears and heart to hear God’s name among the cursing, but in the end my presence does not change the reality of what was said. It's not one set of rules with me present and another set of rules with me absent. Still, I appreciated the old-school respect the guys were trying to show.

Among the readings for this weekend, in the Gospel Jesus stresses: “If you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!” He says it twice! Jesus seeks to correct the thought that some were more guilty than others, and therefore perished. Instead, his admonition is for everyone to repent. In other words, avoid the thought: I am better than so-and-so, or those people will be in deep trouble. Jesus would not be pleased with the goodie-two-shoes. Instead, the call to repent is universal. We are all invited to bear good fruit. Or, in the language of Paul, we must heed the warning and give good example, for “whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall” (1 Cor 10:12). We can all at times suffer from some smugness, myself included.

This week we focus on leadership. We bring God the question: “Seriously, those people are in charge?!” We have all had that thought: about political leaders, coaches, bosses, and religious figures. Anyone in authority receives greater scrutiny. Just as much as I may not agree with a decision a leader has made, so too, I keep in mind that someone may not agree with one of my decisions. At first this bothered me, and I felt the need to convince any nay-sayers of my position, but now I just try to listen well and make good decisions, admitting that no decision will please everyone.

Still the human penchant to blame leaders is strong and consistent. We expect more from our leaders. And in some cases, the failure of leadership is great and the ramifications generational. Their influence is far greater than ours. My heart breaks for all the people turned away from God and church because of leaders who abused their authority. I pray for healing and a deep peace for anyone affected.

Right now, something even more urgent is pressing on the world-stage. We are seeing that decisions leaders make affect not only their own citizens but millions or even billions of people. No one around the whole world remains unaffected by Russia’s war against Ukraine. Gas and wheat prices affect everyone, yet it is the people of Ukraine and surrounding countries of Poland and Romania that are now the most affected, as well as those of Russia itself. Now is the time for world leaders to act in a brave and united way against aggression, to be leaders full of virtue.

This week I invite you to repent, not only for your own sins, but the shortcomings of leaders. Perhaps choose an additional penance or prayer for the leaders who can bring about genuine change in this dire situation. Skip a meal. Pray a decade of the rosary. Something simple offered to God with love is part of cultivating the fig tree so that it bears good fruit (see: Lk 13:1-9).

Peace in the Lord,

Fr. Joel