Monday, January 24, 2022

A Farewell Sermomily


 On January 23, 2022, the Third Sunday of Ordonatey time,  I said good bye and farewell to my parish Blessed Sacrament and Saint Linus. Homily. The readings for that day were taken from the Sunday Lectionary 69 - Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 12:12-30 or 12:12-14, 27; Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21

When it comes to preaching on the day of your retirement, what should you say? Should it be a homily or a sermon? Since a homily is a commentary that follows a scripture reading, it would seem my first responsibility is to break open the word of God so you might find something meaningful in scripture. But if a sermon is about sharing information, wouldn’t that make it a better format to say farewell.  Since this is a no-win situation, I chose both, making this talk a sermonily. 1/2 homily and 1/2 sermon.

The one experience I hope to avoid is what happened to another minister who said farewell.  

in another parish and another diocese, a deacon, who had just given his farewell homily at Mass, was greeting people as they exited.  One elderly lady approached him as she walked out, and said:  "Your successor won't be as good as you." "Nonsense", the deacon replied, in a flattered tone. "No, really", said the lady, "I've been here under five different ministers, and each new one has been worse than the last.

Hopefully, when all is said and done, I am remembered as a companion who was fortunate enough to walk with each of you as a member of the Body of Christ, sharing our common journey of faith, each using our own gifts and abilities to help with completing Christ’s ministry on earth. 

And that ministry that we share is defined by Jesus when he stood up in his home synagogue in Nazareth and said I have been anointed to bring good news to all those in need.

Way back in September when this date was chosen for my retirement, I had no idea that my final homily would be based on the same gospel passage that was read at my ordination twenty-seven years ago. It was quite a surprise to discover that the gospel passage that began my ministry as a deacon would also be the final one I would read.

In my 27 years of ministry I have tried to follow these words of Jesus, that call us to bring the good news to all those in need.  

Over these years I have served at three parishes, beginning with St. Gregory the Great in Picton, followed by St. Mary’s Cathedral here in Kingston and my final episcopal appointment, Blessed Sacrament Parish in Amherstivew and St. Linus in Bath.

My ministry has included serving as Director of Deacons, the Archbishop’s Delegate, Director of Pastoral Care at Hotel Dieu, but it was my service within the parish that has been the most meaningful for me, especially here at Blessed Sacrament / St Linus.

And all of this could never have been done without the support of my wife, Ellen, and family, who shared our fifty-four years of marriage with the Church.

My journey to ordination, which started over thirty years ago, didn’t begin with my choice to apply to the Formation Program of studies. It began years before. I had doubts. I was wondering whether I could pick up my cross and follow Jesus. I wondered whether the cost of serving as a deacon was too much.  

Then I read the letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians that spoke about the body of Christ. Again, another surprise for me, it happens to be our second reading for today. It is this passage that helped me say “Yes” to God’s invitation. Saint Paul helped me understand that the high demands that come with ordination should not intimidate one. Jesus who calls us to follow him will not only walk with us every step of the way but will also give us many companions to accompany us. As a member of the body of Christ we are never alone. Together, each of us with our unique role, complete Christ’s mission on earth.

This idea is really illustrated whenever we gather as a faith community for Mass. In addition, to the members who clean and prepare the church for Mass, who wash the linens, who look after changing the altar cloths and ensuring seasonal decorations are in place, we have all those who minister at Mass. Father Shea as the presider, the deacon as his assistant, the altar servers, the readers, communion ministers, those who provide the music, as well as the greeters, ushers and most importantly all of us who participate in the Mass by our presence, our responses to the prayers, offering the sign of peace to one another, our sharing in the Eucharist and with the peace of Christ leave Mass to bring the good news of Christ to all we meet.

It has been a privilege to have been one member of the body of Christ serving with this community at Blessed Sacrament / Saint Linus. Unlike the deacon who thought for a moment he was number one, I hope that my service complemented the service each of you continue to make as individual member as the body of Christ.

Today is my farewell as a deacon who assists at Mass, but not goodbye to the parish, since in the future I will be able to sit with Ellen in the pew and celebrate Mass with her at my side. As most clergy who retire, there will be times when I will help out as needed.  

I have only one worry when I retire, I heard that the trouble with retirement is that you never get a day off. – (Abe Lemons)

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