It is so easy to think everything will always be just the same as it is now, as it seems always to have been. In order to function normally, we must assume this, lest we be paralyzed by infinite variables and fear. So when something does change, we can be shocked and even shaken.
You will notice a big change here this week: the large old maple tree outside the school entrance had to be cut down. I called the tree man because of a dead limb hanging over the walkway, the same fellow who had done some “safety pruning” on it two years ago. Even then, I told him, I knew it was nearing the end; but he said a little trim was all that was necessary at that time. This time, alas, it wasn’t only dead branches, but fungus on the roots, rot and splitting in the trunk. It had to come down, and because of its location by the school, the sooner the better.
It was likely here from the beginning of the parish. We have an old aerial photo taken just before the church was built in 1958, and there stands that maple, full-grown and proud. It was tough to see it go.
After the busy weekend of November 1 – 2 – 3, I joked that it was like the film Groundhog Day; every morning, I woke up, and it was Sunday again! But the three holy days were in fact quite different one from another; each beautiful, but each filled by my favorite and most demanding activity, parish Masses.
On Saturday, we celebrated our annual Mass for the repose of the souls who were buried from our parish over the past year. The choir, under our new music director Rob Barbarino, did a marvelous job with Gabriel Fauré’s rich, evocative setting of the Requiem Mass. At our invitation, a number of the families of the deceased came, some not having been here since the funeral. It was a beautiful, powerful experience of the life-giving prayer of the Church, and our Christian hope in the face of death.
During the Mass at the intercessions, as I read aloud the names of all those deceased, I was deeply moved. So many of them I knew well, maybe even for years and years. Some I hardly knew, but grew acquainted with them through their grieving families. Each name called to mind a life, its love, and the gap left behind at its passing.
As you pass today, look to where that large maple stood even as recently as last week, where now there is only a gap. Realize that every one of us, whether monumental or miniscule, and every one whom we love, will similarly be felled by the scythe of time and mortality. But know also that the love Who touches us here, under the forms of bread and wine, water and oil, with words of admonition and of mercy, nurtures us into life that will never pass away.
Even at Saint Bernadette, things change. No two days are the same; no Mass or Baptism ever a re-run. It is a true and joy-giving privilege for me to be Pastor here, to preside over the sanctifying events of lives and lifetimes. It is precisely because things change that the steady persistence of God’s good grace is such a gift to have and to share. Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.