Today as I made my way to Mt. Irenaeus for Mass I could not shut out the specter of war and an overall feeling of helplessness from my mind. Saber rattling by the Bush Administration both in Iraq and lately Iran, along with news that Russia has put its long range bomber fleet back into the air for the first time since 1992. As the father of two draft age children I cringe at the thought of a return to conscription. There are some among us whose blood lust has not been quenched by the Iraq quagmire and long it would seem for more death and destruction. The last six years have been one of the sorriest chapters in the history of the United States and even the world. Xenophobia seems to be celebrated and each week another reason not to trust our neighbor or ourselves is thrust before us. The recent NBA betting/cheating scandal and the word of a professional athlete who finds sport at betting on dogs and later killing those that are presumed expendable. It was with this heart that I drove along the familiar roads as I made my way to “the Mountain.” A stop in Cuba, New York at the grocery store to bring my share for the dish-to-pass brunch following today’s Eucharist.
Upon arriving at Mt. Irenaeus and after leaving my foodstuffs in the House of Peace, I made my way up the trail to Holy Peace Chapel. The chapel was full today of not only the regulars but also new and returning faculty, staff and administration from St. Bonaventure University. Fr. Bob Struyzynski, OFM was our celebrant. He asked me to read today’s Responsorial Psalm. As he did so he remarked, “you’ll find this is already in your heart.” The refrain was, “Lord, come to my aid.” I looked at the psalm and smiled. I love Fr. Bob, he has such a gentle spirit and has such a unique way of ministering to his flock.
Today’s Eucharist began as usual at the Mountain with Fr. Bob introducing first himself and then inviting each of us in our own way to say our names and something about ourselves. He invited everyone present whether Catholic or not that they were welcome to be as much a part of this celebration as they were comfortable being. Then we began with a hymn/song that really spoke to my heart. It is called, “All are Welcome,” by Marty Haugen. As the hymn began and I began to mouth the words and indescribable peace flowed through me and I began to cry. I felt the gentle touch of the holy spirit in this place where all are truly welcome. Today’s readings and Fr. Bob’s homily really inspired me to carry on and reminded me that the prophet Jeremiah suffered under the lash of the government of his day for speaking prophetically about the evil and injustice that surrounded him. My reading of the psalm and the second reading reminding us to persevere in running the race and keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.
Today’s gospel message is one that always has troubled me.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“I have come to set the earth on fire,
and how I wish it were already blazing!
There is a baptism with which I must be baptized,
and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division.
From now on a household of five will be divided,
three against two and two against three;
a father will be divided against his son
and a son against his father,
a mother against her daughter
and a daughter against her mother,
a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
Fr. Bob emphasized that the fire was the fire of God’s love for us and that this message has been and will be rejected but that we must persevere as disciples of Christ in spreading this message of inclusion and hope. At the offertory it is customary for a short hymn or song to be sung. Today by mistake, Fr. Bob played “All are Welcome” again by Marty Haugen. I’m including a link to this lovely hymn here so that you too can know that all are truly welcome. The Lion will lay down with the lamb. The Prince of Peace is here it’s just that Mr. Bush and others either can’t hear or haven’t heard that message. It is our job to share that message with all those around us whether American, Russian, Iraqi, Iranian, African or Indian.