15th Sunday Ordinary Time – Homily (Fr. Gribowich)

Good morning, everyone.

Great joy to be with you here at the 11:15 mass and plus there’s even a greater joy that we get to welcome Sister Lilia, who’s here from the Little Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, who will be speaking to us in a few moments about the important missionary work that she does and give us a window into really the challenges that exist with our brothers and sisters in other places around the world, just taken by the fact that when Jesus gives authority to the disciples or really to anyone, to anyone who is a missionary disciple, it comes with a certain type of cost.

Now, this is kind of a little surprising because usually when we think of people who have authority, they have somehow earned it, meaning that they have the proper amount of education, the proper amount of skills.

They may even have a certain type of social status or financial status that gives them street creds, credibility to have authority over others.

Yet when Jesus gives authority to disciples or to anyone else, he requests or rather demands that they be stripped away of things.

And we hear that in the gospel today, the disciples are to go out and bring healing to others, but they do it with the most bare necessities.

No money, no extra clothing, no food. They are at the mercy at the whim of those they encounter, but they aren’t necessarily just at the mercy and the whim of those they encounter in order to sustain themselves so they can just live.

Jesus demands this because in order to have authority in his name, one must be completely not about him or herself. One has to be completely a conduit of Jesus Christ.

This is exactly the theology of Saint Paul in all of his letters, even the one that we heard today, that the freedom of following Jesus is not so much about doing a really good job, but about becoming nothing. That’s how we are able to freely live and in turn bring that message of freedom to others.

It’s something that I think we can all reflect upon, especially as we come out of the pandemic. Some of our things were taken away from us. And I know that since we have vaccines and everything else going on, we have this desire to just go back to how things were.

But could we step back for a second and think about how free we were when things were taken away?

It sounds almost paradoxical, but when things are taken away, we don’t have choices.

And when we don’t have choices, we resign ourselves to what is.

But when we resign ourselves to what is that’s when we are able to find God and when we find God, we then in turn are able to be a means of God’s presence, Jesus Christ presence to others.

That’s exactly how missionaries live their lives, knowing that they aren’t necessarily bringing something to people, but they are able to simply be present to other people. And by being present to them, they’re able to receive what God wants to bless them through others.

Of course, I probably can’t explain that as well as Sister Lilia will be able to explain for us today and the work that she does.

But as we approach Jesus today in the Eucharist, maybe try to just empty ourselves, just simply saying, Jesus, it’s not about me and I’m not trying to prove that I’m worth your love or anyone else’s love. I simply want to be present to your presence and others. And by just being presence, we are then instruments of healing.

So, Sister Lilia. Do you want to come up and share your story?

Sister Lilia Kagendo: Thank you. Good morning, everyone.

[Sings:] God our Father looks at us with love all the time, all the time
God our Father looks at us with love all the time, all the time.
He says how he loves you all the time
He says how he loves you all the time.
I will love you forever, I will love you forever,
I will love you forever all the time.

How nice it is to be in the presence of the Lord to experience love, joy, peace and happiness.

I’m here today to be with you, to worship, with you, and to, to experience that love of God and Jesus Christ so that we, too, we can be able to share with those who are not here today.

First, I would like to thank Father Smith, your Pastor, for giving me this opportunity to share with you the good news of Jesus Christ. As Father John had said, my name is Sister Lilia Kagendo from Kenya, East Africa.

Currently I’m stationed at St. Patrick Church in Bay Ridge here in Brooklyn.

I belong to the community of the Little Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, a community founded in 1923 by an Irish woman named Mother Mary Kevin, servant of God, in Uganda.

The mission of the Little Sisters of St Francis of Assisi is to spread the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ following the spirituality of Saint Francis of Assisi: love, care and concern for our neighbor, especially the poor and the needy have been the pillars of our mission in Africa.

This is nothing to take care of the homeless, children, the elderly, street children, refugees, AIDS patients, single mothers, mentally challenged and also providing medical care to the poor people.

In the villages in Africa today, so many families have been wiped him by poverty alone, diseases leaving so many poor children, orphans. And more so, COVID-19 have affected so many poor families. And in ministries where we are at work. And most of the people affected are the children living in the streets because they have nowhere to go.

And so the Little Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi have a mission to minister to these disadvantaged people through people of good will. It is through people like you that God’s blessings are known.

These people, they need the food, they need medical care, they need education, they need the clothing, and the more especially, they need the love.

And some of these people are being affected by COVID-19. They cannot be able to afford any dollar to buy masks or hand sanitizer to use. That is why so many poor people suffering and dying in Africa today. Do you feel motivated to reach out to these poor people generously? If Jesus Christ was here today, what do you think he would do to such a people? It is it that he what wouldn’t he do, but what we are called to do ourselves as he calls us. Sometimes we may ask ourselves why there are so many poor, poor people throughout the world.

It is meant so that the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ may be fulfilled.

We received without the cost, and so we give without cost.

And in Matthew chapter 25 verses 35 to 36, Jesus says, when I was hungry, you gave me food. When I was exhausted, you gave me a drink; when I was a stranger you accompanied me;  naked you clothed him; when in prison and you visited with me. As often as you do these to the least of one of my brothers and sisters, you do it for me.

[Sings:] God has something to say. God has something to say.
Listen, listen, listen attentively, for God has something to say.

Allow me to share with you a true short story. Before I came to the United States, one day I went to shopping in Nairobi. As I was walking along the street, I came across a couple of street children.

They saw me and one of them said, Sister, would you please buy us a loaf of bread?

I was very much touched by what this child asked, he didn’t asked me money, he didn’t asked me clothing.

But he only asked a loaf of bread and I asked them to follow me.

And we entered in one of their stores and I asked them to pick you what they would like to my supplies.

One of the youngest just picked only the one loaf of bread,

and they all looked at me and I asked them with this one loaf of bread, it’d be enough for ten of you?

Some said yes. I never said anything. But I myself, who knew?

The children live in the street in day and night, waiting for someone to dry the hearts of, swallow one loaf of bread will not be enough for them? So I picked a couple of loaves of bread and some bottles of soda, and I handed over to them and they left the store.

After I finished paying their bill. I went out and I found these children waiting for me outside the door.

And I looked at each one of them and I asked them, Do you have something else to tell me?

One of the youngest, the tiny child said, Sister, thank you very much.

You are the very first person who had pity on us since morning.

May God bless you, may God reward you.

Why, I was so moved and touched by these words: May God bless you, may God reward you.

In my life, I knew children who have never experienced the love of their parents living in the street and in night waiting for someone to give support.

Never knew that God exists. But because of this loaf of bread I give to them, they realized that God loves them and in God exists.

So I told them, love one another, share equally and do not fight.

And we departed.

Now, as I was walking along the street, I was very much in this crowd and I said to myself, Sister, I have given these children a loaf of bread for lunch. How about supper? How about the rest of their lives? I never got any answer.

I said, in Jesus, I have done all of that. I could.  I surrender the children to you.

There are your children: take care of them. And off I continued with my shopping.

Now that very day when I went back to the center where I lived. There came in a guide to pay for a seminar.

After he paid for the seminar, he said to me, Sister, do you know you and the other sisters who live in center, how much you talk to the poor people and the refugees who come here for help?

I said, you know, he said, I have met a couple of refugees from Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, and they have talked in much of their love and welcome and hospitality they receive whenever they come in this center for help.

And I said to him, thank you very much. You pray for us. It is not easy. And then he said prayers are always good. Don’t you think something else needed to be done?

I asked him, what do you mean?

He put his hand in his pocket and handed over to me a check for one hundred dollars and he said, this is for you and the sisters who live in the center for the good work you do for the poor people come here for help and that you lift.

The very day when I went in the chapel as I was contemplating the front of the Blessed Sacrament, thanking the Lord for all that he has done for me for the day, I captured the children who may give the loaf of bread in the morning, holding them bottles of soda and the bread jumping and in dancing.

When I opened my eyes, I discovered I was in the chapel and immediately something clicked in my mind.

Sister, remember that I asked you to these poor children in the morning and they said, May God bless you, may God reward you.

My dear friends, I do believe the prayers of the children are very powerful and too, I do believe whenever we open ourselves and share with all the people who come on our way, and especially the poor and the elderly ones, once we leave to help them, normally and God blesses us in a mighty way, today.

I am here as a servant of Jesus Christ with faith on behalf of these poor people in Africa, asking you kindly to share with the Little Sisters so that we can be able to extend that love to these poor children who have nobody to really care for them.

Since we are Christians by our love, let us open our hearts and willing hearts to whatever comes on our way so that we can be able to share that love of our Lord Jesus Christ with those people.

And also we can be blessed because of opening our hands to the people who are in need.

Thank you very much for your support, be assured of our prayers and for you to pray for us.

Finally, I would like to thank the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, Bishop Nicholas, and also the mission office for giving us this opportunity to share with you the good news of our Lord in Jesus Christ.

And lastly, Jesus, asked some of the disciples to go in every house, where ever they enter and where ever they are welcome, they leave peace.

I need to thank you for your nice welcome, for your love and for promising to share with the Little Sister so that we can extend that love to the poor people who are looking for someone to delay the tears of sorrow.

I am also going to leave and blessings upon you, upon your families and all the places wherever you are.

[Sings:] May the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.

Thank you so much. May God bless you, may God love you. I love you, too.