22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 30, 2015 – Year B
Readings: Dt 4:1-2, 6-8 / Psalm 15 / Jas 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27 / Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor
Yesterday in his homily at our sister parish in Moneta, Resurrection Catholic Church, Deacon Chris Barrett focused on his theological reflections related to the shooting that occurred at Bridgewater Plaza last Wednesday, taking the lives of Alison Parker and Adam Ward, and wounding the lone survivor, Vicki Gardner. Vicki is out of danger now. She is a parishioner at Resurrection, and we were able to talk to her yesterday.
Many great things have been said in the last few days about Alison and Adam in the various media outlets, and rightly so. But this morning, I’d like to talk a little about Vicki.
All those who know her say that she is a very friendly person. Even Chris described her as one of the friendliest faces at Smith Mountain Lake. It’s not surprising; after all, she is the Director of the Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce. The last face that Alison and Adam saw in this world before their lives were taken away from them was Vicki’s – a friendly face. And knowing Vicki, she must have cultivated friendships with them even before this now-famous TV interview. In the past four days, the support of friends has surely given the families of the victims the strength they desperately need during this difficult time.
In today’s second reading, which is taken from the Letter of James, the Apostle said, “All good giving and every perfect gift comes from Above, coming down from the Father of Life.” Each and every one of us receives all sorts of gifts from our Creator. But one of His greatest gifts is the gift of friendship. In Chapter 15 of the Gospel of John, Jesus says to His disciples, “I have called you Friend, because I have told you everything I have heard from My Father.” Jesus died for all of us, His friends. This is how important we are to Him.
The other night I visited a long-time friend of mine in Virginia Beach. His name is Remy. His wife told me that he had been given only a few days to live. When I saw him in pain, helpless in bed, the seven years I worked with him at St. Luke’s flashed through my mind. He was a stocky, muscular man who volunteered for almost everything in the church, from cutting the grass to cooking in the kitchen, doing a fiesta celebration, and fixing almost anything that needed repair in my Rectory. He seemed to have all the energy in the world and could do almost anything. But more importantly, he always had time for his friends. I wasn’t a bit surprised to find his family and friends there, taking turns sitting with him so that someone was always with him during the last few days of his life. In fact, I considered it a great privilege to be with him and take my turn.
Dale Carnegie once said, “To know if people are interested in you, ask yourself this question: If you died tonight, how many people would attend your funeral?” But I’d rather pose this question: If your doctor told you tomorrow that you only had 3 weeks to live, how many people would volunteer to sit with you, 24/7, until you pass away?
As is the case with most dying persons, my friend, Remy, is afraid. Deacon Ray was an exception. He was one of the very few who wasn’t afraid of death. Although Remy fears death just like most of us, the presence of his friends praying with him, reminding him of God’s presence, makes the unbearable bearable. It allows him to see God’s light at the end of this earth’s tunnel. The support and prayers of all his friends around him help give him the strength, the courage, and the faith to prepare himself to embrace what St. Francis called ‘Sister Death’, who will take him home to God’s Eternal Dwelling.
To give or receive the gift of friendship is indeed, as the Letter of James put it, a perfect gift. And in a few minutes, our Lord Jesus, who calls us His friends, will give us a perfect gift, His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the Holy Eucharist. This will serve as the food for our journey in this world, as we move forward to reach our final destination, the Eternal Dwelling of Our Heavenly Father.