Christmas 2017 Homily

The Secret Formula

by Deacon John P. Gaulin

  • So, I spent the last two days in NYC, Massapequa Park, Long Island specifically, participating in the wake and funeral Mass for my boss’ daughter. Amanda was a 32 year old mother of a beautiful 18 month old son, Luke, and married to Jimmy, a really wonderful man and FBI agent
  • I share this with you because through that short – though long – two days, I learned so much about faith, hope, love…. and Christmas, and I’m not sure if I want or need to share the story with you… but here goes
  • Amanda’s disease has some fancy name, but by any name, it was brain cancer.
    • It seems to have been triggered by her pregnancy
    • And so for the past 2 years or so, she went through surgeries and therapies
  • As you can imagine, her time with baby Luke was preciously short, as her disease affected her intellectual capabilities
  • Last Tuesday, she lost the battle
    • And so the trip to NYC
  • In many ways, this journey was like some storybook experience. I met so many characters – from Uber drivers to the young priest – who will no doubt someday be a bishop – to Amanda’s family, her husband and his family, and of course, Luke
  • I could tell you about all of the events and all of the people, but I won’t…
    • But allow me to share just a few…
  • Obviously, this was a powerfully sad time:
    • A new dad loses his wife
    • A young boy loses his mom
    • Parents burying their child
  • And while they certainly had their moments, the whole scene had an underlying theme of joy
  • The power of Amanda’s life filled the funeral home, as person after person told beautiful stories of their experience with her
  • At the wake, Amanda’s brother-in-law read the eulogy that her husband Jimmy had written, but was understandably unable to deliver
    • It told their story, but woven throughout it was the message of hope
    • It was clear that the pieces of his life had been shattered and scattered, but it was equally clear that with the support of family and friends… he’d pick those pieces up, reassemble them and continue forward
    • Not a dry eye in the place
  • At the funeral Mass, Fr Greg gave a beautiful homily – elegantly connecting the wood of the manger, filled with hope, to the wood of the cross – which is for us the most powerful symbol of hope that we have
    • He called life after Adam and Eve ‘a mess’ and proclaimed that things like Amanda’s death cannot be explained outside the context of Original Sin
    • We are imperfect people, living in an imperfect world and ugliness is everywhere
    • If not for the hope of the manger and the cross, we would be immersed in despair
  • As I reflected on his homily during my seven hour, delay-laden wait at JFK airport, I realized something that I now refer to as the Secret Formula
    • Messiness (be it pain, suffering, loss or tragedy – messes of any kind) + Hope = Joy
  • And then it hit me… this is the meaning of Christmas
    • The first Christmas was mess: New baby coming, strange town, no place to stay
      • I think that qualifies as a mess
    • The trial, passion and execution of the most innocent man that ever lived
      • That was a mess
    • But Christ did not preach about ‘messes’ so much as how to get beyond them
      • Pick up your cross (aka “the mess”) and follow Me
      • Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace and sin no more
      • Today you will be with Me in Paradise
    • If we miss the HOPE, we miss the point!
    • Sure, LIFE has its messy times – with pain, sadness, tragedy
      • But how strong is your HOPE?
    • Strong Hope transforms the mess
    • One more quick story…
    • Luis is a Hispanic Uber driver, who does not speak English very well.
    • When I told him I was going to St Rose of Lima church for the funeral, his whole face lit up as he said, “Catholica!”
      • Then he showed me the rosary he wore around his neck
    • He went on to tell me that he used to be a drug dealer, drink excessively and was a womanizer
      • Then he came down with serious digestive issues
      • He prayed to Jesus for help, as his situation was extremely painful
        • And yeah, he made the promise: No more drug selling, no more alcohol, no more women… if only he would be healed
        • And he was; and he did
      • And while the skeptical among us might doubt his resolve, you be convinced had you seen the passion with which he was proclaiming his faith, his gratefulness for his healing and his commitment to keep those promises
    • You only pray with that much passion if you have HOPE
      • Please God, let us all have the depth of HOPE that Luis shared with me yesterday
    • Messiness + HOPE = Joy
      • During his homily, Father Greg shared a story about one of his brother priests who also lost a sister to cancer. As they discussed her death, his friend said to him, “Greg, I can’t wait to see her again!” – HOPE that leads to JOY
      • Amanda’s family left the funeral Mass with a Hope-filled confidence – albeit woven with sadness – that this was not the end
    • So, my request of you this day is two-fold:
      • During this special season, let the people you love know you love them. Let go of any difficulties and realize how precious life – and the time we spend with loved ones – is, and…
      • Please don’t let the trappings of Christmas blind you to the gift that is HOPE.
    • Life is a mess; HOPE is the antidote
      • From the manger to cross, the life of Jesus is all about bringing HOPE
    • May we embrace it and share it with one another, today and always

Merry Christmas

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