Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
This is the last time that I will address you in this space as your pastor. On July 1st, 2020, Father Frank Schwarz will become pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Parish. Father comes to us from American Martyrs Church in the Bayside/Hollis Hills section of Queens County. Many years ago, as a young priest he had been assigned to Our Lady, Queen of Martyrs Church so some of our parishioners may remember him from that time. Father is sixty-one years of age (the same age I was when I became pastor of Our Lady of Mercy). His Mother and Father were born in Germany and his childhood was spent both in Bushwick and Richmond Hill. He has served in the Medical Corp of the United States Army and did his post-collegiate theological studies at the major
seminary of The Immaculate Conception formerly in the Lloyd Harbor section of Huntington, Long Island. I am sure that he will receive a warm welcome from the parishioners of Our Lady of Mercy Parish.
By Church Law, all priests (and Bishops) holding positions of administration must submit their resignation from those positions. I will be seventy-five years of age in November 2020. In our Diocese, a priest is given the first opportunity of “retirement” at seventy-one but when I passed that age, I informed Bishop DiMarzio that I would like to continue for several more years. It is now over three and a half years and the time has come. As most of you know, I am a native of this parish. My paternal grandparents, who were Irish-born, lived in Greenpoint/Northside of
Williamsburg but moved to 69-11 Manse Street in 1925, when this area was passing over from farmland to suburban developments. I was Baptized at Our Lady of Mercy Church in December 1945 but years later when I left for the major seminary, I never dreamed that I would one day return here as pastor. The Lord indeed does move in mysterious ways. In fact, in my forty-eight years as a Diocesan priest, Our Lady of Mercy Parish has been my longest assignment! Those other assignments have been varied, including the Diocesan Vocation Office, two assignments to parishes in Jackson Heights, one assignment in North Flushing and a year and a half as a temporary administrator of an inner City Brooklyn parish. Of all of them, the parishioners of Our Lady of Mercy take second place to none in their hospitality, kindness and generosity. It has been a privilege to have been your pastor for the last thirteen years.
This Sunday’s readings seem at first to be an arbitrary amalgam but there is a thread of consistency. In the first, taken from the Old Testament Second Book of Kings, the prophet, Elisha, is given hospitality by a woman of influence in the town of Shunem. Travel in ancient times was a precarious business and often depended for success on the kindness and decency of others. This lady and her husband were hospitable to the Prophet Elisha and in turn he brings life to them. They are promised a son even though the husband is “getting on in years”. Later in the Book the boy dies but Elisha raises him up from the dead.
The second reading again, as is often the case, is from St. Paul’s self-introductory letter to the small Christian community already at Rome. Almost all of these folks, like Paul himself, would have been from a Jewish background and Paul relies on their knowledge of their ancient faith. In today’s citation, Paul assures his readers that if they have been baptized in Christ, they were
baptized into His death but just as Jesus was “raised from the dead by the Fathers’ glory, we too might live in newness of life.” Christ is raised from the dead once and for all, and we share in His raising. Their Baptism and ours is a life-changing event.
Finally, in the Gospel, taken from Saint Matthew, Jesus addresses His disciples. It stands to reason that during His public ministry, Jesus could not reach everyone even in His own time and place. His message depended on others, who not only would preach but in their identification with Christ would bring Him to others. To do this they must depend on Jesus and the Father even more than their own families. In the ancient world, this was shocking since family was the source of validation and assistance especially in a time when there were no social services. Yet Jesus also teaches that anyone who receives one of His disciples, in a sense, receives not only Jesus but also the One Who sent Him, the Father in heaven. Harkening back to the story of Elisha, Jesus tells us that the person who does an act of kindness to a prophet or one who preaches the Word will receive a prophet’s reward. Even the smallest considerate gesture given to a little one (not necessarily a child but one whose attitude is a dependency on God much as a child depends on his or her parents) will receive eternal compensation.
Jesus’ examples reveal that the disciples or preachers of the Word are in sense channels of divine blessing to those who receive them and show hospitality to them. After the encounter both the “prophet” and the one providing hospitality are connected to Christ. They are woven together in the divine family, which ultimately will provide all their needs.
During these last thirteen years, in some small and perhaps insignificant way, I hope that I have been able to be that disciple of Jesus, who brings the Good News, whether through actual preaching or the celebrations of the Sacraments or in the classroom. You have been unstintingly generous to the parish and its ministers, and my prayer and hope is that the words of today’s Gospel prove true for each and every parishioner. I will be remaining with you as a resident at 70-01 Kessel Street but hope to be able perhaps in a more measured pace to continue to be a vehicle of that divine grace to you. If over these thirteen years I have not always been true to my call and have in any way offended any of our parishioners or staff, whether deliberately or inadvertently, I do ask your forgiveness and you should know that my deep desire is to be able to be equally forgiving since it is one of the major mandates left to us by Our Lord. God bless you and have a safe and restful summer. After this area of the coronanvirus, the lives of many of us may be transformed, but hopefully we will continue to gather as God’s people here in Forest Hills, Rego Park and Kew Gardens.
Yours in Christ,
Monsignor John A. McGuirl