HOMILY – SEPTEMBER 27
Perhaps very few of us here this morning were in this church on Monday, March 27, 1972, when three bishops, 70 priests, and a large congregation gathered for the funeral of Monsignor Joseph A. Lipkus. “Papa Lipki,” as he was somewhat affectionately known by some of our ancestors in the faith, had served as pastor here for 36 years, still a record mocking the present incumbent’s paltry 22 years. Those were the days of the giants, when the very sight of the pastor could make grown men tremble, women weep, and children of all ages wish they were still wearing training pants.
I remember the sermon delivered on that occasion, by Bishop Charles A. Salatka, then of Marquette, a protégé of Monsignor Lipkus. He preached about prophets and prophecy, not unlike the readings we have heard this morning. He noted that God raises up the people he needs to lead and serve the Church at each age of its life. Monsignor Lipkus served a congregation that was made up heavily of Lithuanian immigrants and their children. Nearby pastors of Polish and German parishes, and the dominies (pron. DAH-mih-neez) or pastors of the local Dutch Protestant churches, all had similar tasks. They ruled the roost, because their parishioners were quite busy enough learning the ways of life of their new homeland at work, at school, at the market, and in the neighborhood, to have much time to concern themselves with parish governance.
No pastor today, Bishop Salatka said, even ‘way back then in 1972, could manage a parish in the same fashion that Monsignor Lipkus had done for years before that. Indeed, I might add, no pastor today would DARE, for fear of inviting lawsuits! But God raises up the people he needs to lead and serve the Church at each age of its life.
Eldad and Medad were prophesying in the camp, it was reported to Moses in the first reading. Stop them!
Moses replies, “Would that EVERYBODY did the same!”
Some guy was driving out demons in your name, the Apostles report to Christ in the Gospel, and we tried to stop him.
“Noooo,” Jesus says, “whoever is not against us is for us!” God is not threatened when people do good things in his name, no matter who they are. But in the second reading, we heard James reading the prophetic riot act to those Christians who abuse their wealth and their earthly possessions by hoarding them when others are in need. THAT sounds a whole lot like what Pope Francis had to say to us this past week. See? God raises up the people he needs to lead and serve the Church at each age of its life.
So that brings us to today, THIS day, the day of our parish Fall Festival, the day when we are celebrating a 40th anniversary which actually occurred back on August 24th. God raises up the people he needs to lead and serve the Church at each age of its life. Now that might be an unsatisfactory answer to those who, over the last 22 years, have had occasion to ask, “What did we do to deserve THIS?” Hanging over there near Father Den is the banner that was made for him at the time of his ordination. Someone had a prophetic insight, or perhaps a premonition. What’s going on in that banner? The occasion depicted is on the first Palm Sunday. On either side are the disciples who were sent by Jesus to get a donkey — well, no, a JACKASS — to carry him into Jerusalem. And just in case the symbolism is lost upon you, yes, that’s Father Den there in between them. No dashing stallion or mighty steed for the Lord Jesus, for THIS Messiah! No, a jackass will do, a beast of burden, stubborn, mulish, temperamental, funny and flawed in many ways from head to hoof, but that’s all right — THE LORD HAS NEED OF HIM!
Now, lest you think this is just about the pastor, listen to the prophetic message in today’s readings. It’s all about US, too, you and me, ALL of us, pastor and people, shepherd and sheep. You might have asked, from time to time, looking in the mirror at the morning damage report, “You need ME, Lord? You need ME??!!” And God gently responds, as he has every day for over 40 years to our pastor,
“Isaiah said his lips were unclean,
Jeremiah said he was too young,
Amos was perfectly happy being a tree trimmer.
I called THEM, too. I raise up the people I need to lead and serve the Church at each age of its life.
NOW QUIT YOUR HEE-HAWING AND GET BACK TO WORK!!”