Homily – 13th Sunday Ordinary Time

Well, good morning once again to all of you. It’s great to be back for another weekend of masses here at Saint Charles. I’ll be here next weekend as well before I head back out west California to San Francisco. And I think some of you may know that I am a high school teacher out in San Francisco, and it’s something I absolutely love doing.

I was a teacher for probably about ten years after I graduated from college, before I became a priest. So now entering back into teaching again as a priest has been a really special thing for me. It’s been like my first love coupled with the love of the priesthood. It’s been a really great combination and I have to say, this is my first experience.

One on one day to day working what is known as with generation Z, those who were born, I guess around after 2005. And let me tell you, I am a big Gen Z fan. I think that this is a great group of students, and I know that, you know, older people tend to always look down on younger people.

And there’s all this, that type of generation gaps and things like that. But I learned so much from my students, and I have to say that I’m really hopeful for where our world is going, because the things that concern us are not necessarily the things that concern Gen Z, because they’re looking at things a little bit differently than us who are older.

And that’s a good thing. Believe it or not, it’s a very good thing. Now, I say that in the context, because it was just a couple weeks ago that when I arrived in New York, I actually came with ten students and we had a week long program known as Venezia, which simply means come and see. You could kind of loosely call it a service immersion program, but it’s more about just trying to get students from their comfortability and take them to a place that they don’t know to experience things that they haven’t experienced before.

So with ten students from San Francisco coming to New York City, it was a big adjustment. Namely, when they arrived here, they had something called humidity that hit them. it’s literally every morning in San Francisco, 52 degrees and cool. And it rises to a whopping steaming 66 by the middle of the day. And that’s that way every single day.

So you can imagine just the the shock of the weather was a lot, but what was planned for the whole trip was something that I would call to say to them. It was a pilgrimage. And I would say that a pilgrimage is different than a vacation. Now we’re here in the summer and hopefully you have some vacation time plans and vacations are extremely important, but they also require, like I said, lots of planning and you allocate a certain amount of money for a vacation and you make sure that you use that money wisely.

And when you go on vacation, you want to make sure you get what you paid for. So, for example, if you spent a lot of money going on to Florida, you go to Disney World and for some reason the place is closed. You’d be greatly disappointed. Your vacation is a bust. So we have a certain type of mentality with vacation is that I am going to research and plan and spend money, and I want a particular curated experience.

I could say after I left I was like, wow, that was a good trip. But a pilgrimage is almost the complete opposite. Sure, there’s planning involved, let me tell you, I did a lot of planning bringing these ten students and another chaperon to New York City, staying at Saint John’s University in Queens. But the essence of pilgrimage is to expect the unexpected.

And when things go wrong, you’re actually trying to listen very closely to what is being revealed about yourself and about others. Ultimately, what is God speaking in the midst of, let’s say, confusion at times or unexpected events? So the pilgrimage is really hoping that the plan falls, because when the plan falls, that’s when you actually experience something that you really need to experience.

So our pilgrimage took us from Saint John’s University every morning to a different site in New York City and even beyond. So on Monday of that week, we went to the Catholic Worker on the Lower East Side. Dorothy Day is probably a name that some of you may know. She actually was born here in Brooklyn Heights and on Pineapple Street.

She’s going to be a saint in the church, and she’s established these houses of hospitality for people knowing that the best way to combat poverty, so to speak, was actually to become poor with the poor and to enter into their experience to see them as human beings. So we spent time with the Catholic Worker. On Tuesday, we headed over to Saint Thomas Aquinas in Flatlands to work with Catholic Charities, Brooklyn, Queens, which we know.

Monsignor Le Pinto is CEO of. And it’s at that parish that there is a staging area, full service center for all the displaced migrants who are currently living in a tent city in Floyd Bennett Fields, a three mile walk that people from those tents have to come to that parish to get some information on how to begin the asylum process, and just to be able to get basic necessities like toothpaste.

Wednesday we spent time with an organization in Queens called reconnect. It’s a gang intervention type of ministry, taking people from troubled areas of the city, men who may have fallen to drug dealing and try to give them employment, to recognize that they don’t have to fall into the patterns of the streets. And on Thursday, we left the city and went to a Catholic Worker farm in Pennsylvania to see that Dorothy Day was not only about making sure that she would serve the poor in cities, but to realize that a return to the land is the only way to understand where it is that our food comes from, and that the work of the land is

the essence of understanding how to live our lives. And Friday we went up to the far Upper West Side of Manhattan, to the Mother Cabrini Shrine, spent some time at the cloisters. As you can imagine, it was a busy week. I was zonked every single night. But one of the most interesting things about this pilgrimage was not just all the sights that we had planned, because what we did with the students was not to just simply go to these places and do work and learn about things.

We wanted them to be as attentive as possible. So it was a cell free. So cell phone free week. The no students had cell phones with them, except for maybe about 15 minutes each evening. So they could just say to their parents that they were still alive.

But it was transformative. The experience of seeing these students come alive without them looking down at a piece of glass. Now, we all know that our mobile phones are extremely important, and for us who lived before we had them, we know how convenient they are, and we know that they’re an important and powerful tools. Gen-Z is a little bit different because there’s never been a time in their life where they have not known the smartphone.

It was born with it in their hand, kind of in a certain sense, it’s a different way of rewiring the brain. And when I said to the students that we were taking the phones away from them, I said, look, we are not punishing you by taking these phones away. We are not making a statement that saying cell phones are bad.

We’re simply saying that we understand that your brain is wired a certain way, that in any moments of downtime, you will go instantly to your phone. That’s what happens. You can’t yell at someone for that. You can’t be upset about it. It’s just what it is. And the technology itself is addictive enough to facilitate that. But removing the phone allowed the students to come alive and be present, not just simply to what they were doing for that day, but in the in-between spaces.

For example, when you give students a half hour to explore a section of Manhattan with no phone, they’ll have to talk to people. Where’s that subway station? Where should I go eat? Where’s the best place to get souvenirs? There’s no just simple googling. It’s actually talking. Having encounters, right. And I say all of this in the context of the gospel that we just heard.

It was a long gospel because it was a pretty busy gospel for Jesus. And I would like to say that Jesus was on a pilgrimage. He gets off the boat and instantly there’s all these people just kind of crowd around him that cannot be fun. But the minute you come off a boat, everyone’s just, like clamoring for you.

And more importantly, there seems to be an important guy. Jarius, a synagogue official, says, my daughter is dying. I need you to help. And she like, okay, let’s go. So now a plan has been set, but almost instantly the plan has to change because there’s a woman who reaches out to him who’s dealing with a major illness, knowing that if she just touches his cloak, she’ll be healed.

And Jesus recognizes this and has to stop. And that’s the gaze upon the person who is looking at her, looking at him. Thus making him even later for his appointment with Jairus daughter. And of course, by the time he gets to the house, the daughter is dead. Yet Jesus, of course, says, hey, this is the time I’m supposed to be here.

And a tremendous healing takes place. I think it’s important to recognize that Jesus was fully present in the moment. If he was given an itinerary for his day by, say, some apostle next to him, he didn’t really follow it. He responded to what was at hand, one person at a time. That’s how he went through his days. Do you think that was tiring for him?

You better believe it. Do you think he always went just always be stopping all the time, meeting different people, trying to heal people? I’m sure not. Yeah, we can say that Jesus is God, but he’s also human and it’s taxing.

I say this because all of us have the ability to be on pilgrimage each and every day, and it’s in the in-between spaces, the times where we may want to grab our phone, or in those types of non important encounters where the greatest healing can take place. How many of us have to regularly go to a grocery store, or just to the pharmacy to pick something up?

We spend time gazing upon the person at the counter, checking us up. Person working for minimum wage. Do we know his or her story? In the morning, when our city streets are sweet and clean or our garbage is picked up? Do we know who those people are? Who picked up the trash? Who ran in the sweepers and cleaned the streets?

And of course, do we know anything about the stories of the people in our city who seems to be going wrong, going along, plagued by mental illness or addiction? Do we know what their story is? I can guarantee you every single person you encounter, and perhaps the most insignificant encounters that person is carrying something and carrying something very heavy.

They’re not just simply people. To help facilitate your day, to be more convenience, there are people who have lives, stories, and they all want one thing. They all want to be noticed.

Because all of us here in this church, including myself, want to be noticed, to know that our life has some type of meaning, some type of purpose that we’re supposed to be here for some type of reason. And believe it or not, we don’t come up with those reasons on our own. They’re presented to us and affirmed to us by other people.

How much time do we take in just giving a smile to someone? Or when we sit down in a restaurant, ask the waiter’s name to begin a relationship? Yeah, it doesn’t have to go deep, but each encounter is actually an encounter that facilitates healing. To read this gospel and just look at Jesus as the wonder worker who’s just able to do incredible things and do all these healings somehow takes us off of the responsibility that we are also healers.

We are in communion with the healer at this mass and a very special way through the Eucharist, we become a healing presence in the world. But it doesn’t just work that way, because I can guarantee you that when Jesus was going around healing people, Jesus himself was also being energized and affirmed by those encounters. In a certain sense, Jesus was being healed.

We know that because he takes the time to really gaze upon the woman who was seeking him out, he wanted perhaps not to be noticed, but Jesus knew that she had to be affirmed. Today, as we begin this other week, it’s another week of a leg on the pilgrimage. How are you going to take one step in front of the other, knowing that it’s in the most insignificant parts, the most unplanned parts of the days where the greatest opportunity can happen, not just for those that you meet, but most especially for yourself.

Can I get an amen? Amen, Amen. God bless you.