Let Your Kindness Be Known To All

Let Your Kindness Be Known To All

December 16, 2018 | N W | Advent, Compassion, Courage, Eternal Life, Generosity, Guest Celebrants, Heaven, Service, Strength, Trust

Third Sunday of Advent
December 16, 2018 – Year C
Readings: Zep 3:14-18A / Is 12 / Phil 4:4-7 / Lk 3:10-18
by Rev. Paul O’Donnell Duggan, Guest Celebrant

I made a trip to New York to go out to Long Island City, which I hadn’t been to in thirteen months, for the annual Mass for deceased members of the New York Pentecostal Association. I don’t have GPS; GPS is up here (pointing at his head), and at my age, memory is not what it used to be. Oh yes, I remember that on the George Washington Bridge, I need to take the FDR. Now I’ve got to get over to that lane, and I see it. Oh, good, good, good. I take the exit; it’s the next exit. I took the wrong one. Take the wrong exit off George Washington Bridge in New York: L-O-S-T. Completely.

I had no phone with me. My phone went out of operation, otherwise I would have phoned. I had no idea how to get to Long Island City. Henry Hudson Parkway, north or south? South is jammed; I’ll go north. Anyway, I stopped three or four times. People give me directions: Oh, yes, yes, yes. Haven’t a clue; totally wrong. So at this stage I’m totally discouraged, and God’s up in heaven, laughing. “Paul, son, I’ve got your back. I’m only teasing you.” I asked a young man, “Any idea where the Triborough Bridge is?” He says, “Drive up to that light. That’s FDR Drive, and that leads you to the bridge.” So that’s why I’m here today. Drove down yesterday from New York to here.

I don’t know if you saw the George Herbert Walker Bush funeral. I was glued to the TV. It was fantastic altogether. Great celebration. When Barbara died seven months ago, in April, the cartoonist Marshall Ramsey had a great cartoon, which was one of the things that I thought was great, apart from the fact that the funeral was planned way in advance. The Bushes they had a wee daughter called Robin, and she was three years old when she died of leukemia, and I don’t think there was ever a time when they stopped talking about her. Now this was like sixty years ago this wee girl has been dead, but they never, never forgot her. Always brought her name up. It was one of the ways of keeping the memory alive.

So when she died, this cartoonist had a fantastic cartoon of Barbara arriving in heaven – all the clouds – and there’s the wee girl running, shouting “Mama!” And there’s Barbara, shouting “Robin!” Wonderful portrayal that when we die, we are reunited with all our loved ones.

So when President Bush died – He was the youngest pilot in World War II — so obviously the same cartoonist has the plane landing in heaven, and there’s Barbara and Robin. He gets off the plane, and they say to him, “We waited for you.” Wow. What a beautiful understanding of death, that death of course is reunion with God and your loved ones. Magnificent portrayal.

So this Sunday of Advent we call Gaudete Sunday, Gaudete the Latin for “Rejoice!” So Advent season portrays, brings to mind, the first coming of Jesus. I was listening to Cardinal Dolan last Sunday via the Catholic Channel on satellite radio, the Mass from St. Patrick’s cathedral in New York. He had a lovely way of putting it, pointing out that Advent is remembering the First Coming in history, remembers His presence here, this day in the mystery of bread and wine, through the Word, through all of us, and then the highlight of Advent: His coming in majesty, which we used to say in the first two weeks of Advent, in the Preface, “His coming in glory and majesty.”

So Advent is spotlighting for us all three, but particularly number three, His coming in glory. And of course for Robin Bush, for Barbara Bush, and for President Bush, He has come in glory for them. So what are we to do in the meantime? How does Advent help us to get ready for that Second Coming, which we don’t know when it is, but it makes no difference, as long as we’re ready. If we’re ready, then if it’s today, Alleluia. If it’s next year, if it’s a hundred years, if it’s a thousand years, it will make no difference.

There are seven words in the second reading that are phenomenal, in terms of how to get ready for the Second Coming of Jesus in glory and in majesty. “Let your kindness be known to all.”

There’s just one wee tiny area I want to focus on this morning, because when I was in Ireland in September, I’d heard three months previously in Florida from family members that there was a young boy, fourteen years of age, Jamie Doherty. Jamie “borrowed” his grandparents’ car and decided to go for a spin. And alas, the car turned over, and the poor boy died. And so the mother came to the grandparents’ home: “Where’s Jamie?” “Oh, he borrowed the car.” Fourteen years of age, you can’t borrow a car; you can’t drive. Well, when you’re fourteen, actually you can, with consequences of course, in this instance fatal for him. The mother was the one who found him. It wasn’t that far away from the house.

And so when I was in Ireland, in Moville — the family’s from Moville, my home town – I knew I needed to visit that family. I didn’t know the wee boy, Jamie. I didn’t know his daddy, Shane Doherty. I knew his grandfather vaguely. But his great grandfather I knew very well, so way, way back. The grandfather lived pretty close to where I stayed when I return to Ireland in the summertime.

Yes, I’ll go visit the grandfather first, and it was the grandfather who said to me, “Paul, go and visit my son and his wife. They’re lost.” Of course they’re lost. And so I went and visited them, and not an easy visit, but Lord, just as I was lost in New York, O St. Patrick, St. Bridget, Lord, please help me, help me, help me. St. Anthony, help me. I’m lost, let me to be found. And instead of trusting in God’s providence, He said, “Paul, son, don’t you worry. You’ll get to Long Island City. I’m just teasing you to see what you’re made of. Can you do this?”

So I said, yes, I’ll go up and visit, and not an easy visit, but they were so delighted. They were so happy, because the previous Sunday, I had said the Mass out in the church at Ballinacrae. Like here, the priest has three churches where he says Mass on a Sunday. So it was the first time in all my years to go out to this wee place called Ballinacrae, five miles from Moville. I’d been there many times concelebrating Mass but never celebrating Mass on my own. I went out there not realizing that’s where that family worships.

So when I got to the house, Elaine, the mother, said to the two wee boys, his brothers, “Ah, remember Father Paul? We saw him on Sunday.” Now unfortunately I didn’t know that it was them that I met on a Sunday with all the people going out. So there was already a little relationship established by the fact that they were at the Mass that I was celebrating.

When somebody dies tragically, or whenever anyone dies, let your kindness be known to all. They’re part of that “all.” We may feel awkward or difficult, and this Christmas of course for them and any family that has lost a member, and most certainly tragically, an empty chair at the dinner table – that’s going to be very awkward or difficult how to cope with that. And the last thing that they want to hear about their son is that he is in a better place. No! They want him at that table. That’s the best place, at that table, not up in heaven! Maybe a year, maybe five years, maybe ten years they’ll say, “Our son is in heaven.” But not today. Not at this time.

So that’s why, when death occurs, and especially tragic death, you need to take the initiative. Remember when Jesus was at the well with the Samaritan woman? Jewish people do not speak to women in public, and NEVER to Samaritans, non-Jewish people. Never, never, never to Samaritans. No. Jesus followed the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law. He broke all the traditions, so to speak, in order for a greater good. “I need to speak to this woman.” “Do you have a wee drink of water?” He said to her. He broke the ice. He took the initiative.

So we need to take the initiative. You need to take the initiative. These two weeks before Christmas, who in my community is hurting greatly, through the death of a loved one during this year, or in any other type of way? I need to go, knock on the door, and say, “I’m just here to be with you.” And right now never say, “He’s in a better place.” Maybe in five years’ time, ten years’ time we can say that. We know that they know that, but that’s not what they want to hear. All they want to hear is nothing; just be there for them.

You remember the movie, Stand by Me? The four boys, before Labor Day, going off in search of the dead body of the boy who had been killed by a train. So when they finally discover the body, they’re sitting on a log looking at the dead boy, and Corey Feldman says, “Why did he die? Why did he have to die?” He wasn’t referring to that body. He was referring to his brother, who had died in an accident six months previously. And River Phoenix, in answer to that question, put his arm around his friend, “I don’t know.”

Wonderful words. Gesture: I’m here for you. Why your brother died, I do not know. He wasn’t looking for an answer when he asked, “Why did he have to die?” We’re just expressing our feelings. There’s no answer to that question, other than put your arms around the person, we’re here for you.

So today at Holy Communion time, you go back to your seat, bow your head, close your eyes, “Lord, give me the courage to call someone this week before Christmas and just let them know we’re thinking about you and praying for you. We know how difficult this season is for you, how awkward that’s going to be. You’re not alone. We’re here with you. Amen.