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My last homily at Holy Family Parish in Concord

Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Easter
Scriptures for today's Mass

This weekend included my last Sunday masses in Concord after
25 years.  Here's my homily on video, followed by an audio-only 
version, followed by the text.  I'd  especially encourage you to 
watch the video or listen to the audio for the song with which
my homily closes.


Seated at the Last Supper table, on the night before he died,
Jesus told to his friends,
“I will be with you only a little while longer…”

As it happens, I can say the same thing to you today
“I will be with you only a little while longer”
and then I’ll be in my new assignment in Belmont.

And it also happens that this day, May 19, is my ordination anniversary.
Forty-six years ago today,
Cardinal Humberto Medeiros laid his hands on my head.

And he ordained me to preach the Word of God
and to shepherd God’s people - to this Table.

I was ordained to gather you here, week after week on the Lord’s Day
• to break open the bread of the scriptures
to find wisdom and strength
• and to break the Bread and bless the Cup
to feed our hearts and souls with the very life of Jesus in Communion.

I have loved meeting you at the Lord’s Table these past 25 years
and I will miss meeting you at this table
when I leave Concord at the end of this month.

But you will, I trust and pray,
you will continue to come to this Table
• to be strengthened by the One
who truly is the One who gathers you here,
• to be fed by the One who have his life for you on the Cross,
• to meet here the Risen Jesus in the Bread and Cup of the Eucharist.

I pray you’ll continue to do that.

And I, on the Lord’s Day, at another altar in another church,
will, on Sundays, go to the Table,
where I will  offer praise and thanksgiving
for the wisdom and the peace Jesus offers us in our worship:
you in Concord, I in Belmont.

Twenty-five years ago I was a new guy in town.
But over a quarter of a century, through the grace of God
and through my share in the ministry of Jesus,
and through the faith you and I hold in common,
this parish and town have become my home
and you have become my family.

The bonds that tie us together are considerable:
they are the bonds of home and family,
the bonds of grace and mercy,
the bonds of word and sacrament,
the bonds of friendship and love.

All this joins us together and make us one:
we are not just as pew-mates in the house of the Lord,
we are soul-mates in the Lord’s heart.

In fact, we believe and profess that the bonds that join us
are stronger than death.

Nothing less than that is at the heart of the Easter message:
the bond of faith is stronger than death.

If the grace that binds us as one is this strong
- it’s certainly not unreasonable to believe
that you and I can and will survive anything, including
my departure as your pastor
and Fr. Silva’s arrival as your new pastor -
we will all get through this intact, in one piece.

We can do that and we will do that.

Yet, as Shakespeare said:  Parting is such sweet sorrow.
it’s the parting brings the sorrow,
while the sweetness is found
in the hope of meeting again…

Let’s then listen again at Jesus’ words in today’s gospel:

I will be with you only a little longer… love one another.
As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.
This is how all will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.

And allow me to paraphrase the Lord’s words for our purposes here.

Brothers and sisters, I’ll only be your pastor a little while longer
and only for that same brief time
will you be the people of my parish.   
So let us love one another - and love others, too.
As you have loved me as our pastor
so are you called to love Fr. Silva -
whom you haven’t yet met.

And as I have loved you as my parish, so am I called
to love the people of St. Luke’s and St. Joseph’s in Belmont
- whom I am yet to meet.

And this is how you and I will know
- and how others will know -
that the bond we’ve shared for 25 years is of God,
that it’s true,
that it’s forged like steel in the furnace of divine love,
that it’s guaranteed by our faith in the Risen Jesus
and that it finds its greatest joy in serving others.

We can and we will be confident in the bond we share
if our love reaches out to others
because love is strengthened, not weakened,
in our giving it away and sharing it with others -
especially with those whom we have not yet met.

• What a loss it would be if our parting found us locked in the past,
unable or unwilling to carry forward the best of all we’ve
known, shared, celebrated, enjoyed and prized together.

• What a waste it would be if in grieving our separation
we were to forget and leave behind
all we’ve done and accomplished and become
over a quarter of a century.

• What a shame it would be if the sorrow of our parting
left us in a place of sadness,
and found us drifting away from this Table
and from the work of this parish’s life.

Our faith, our Easter faith, our faith in the Risen Jesus teaches us
that in facing all things - even in facing death -
we are called to rise up out of our grief and to embrace what lives
and hold fast to the love we’ve known and shared
until we know the sweetness of meeting again.

Forty-six years ago today
I was ordained to pray with you at the Lord’s Table.

That’s what I’ve done, that’s what you’ve done with me,
for 25 years
and that’s what we’re called to do for the rest of our lives.

May the Lord who loved us first,
the Lord who speaks to our minds and hearts,
the Lord who sets this table and invites us to join him here,
the Lord who gave himself for us on the Cross
and gives himself to us yet again today,
his Body broken for us as bread,
his Blood poured out for us, as from a cup,
the Lord who has brought us together as pastor and people:
may this same Lord teach us to love another as he has loved us
so that all may know that you and I, we are one, ever one,
bound together, bonded, in the love of the Risen Jesus.

For, in the end,
it’s not about me.
And in the end it’s not about you.
And in the end it’s not even about you AND me.

In the end, it’s all about Jesus
and who we are, together, in him.

1) In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus.
Give me Jesus,
you can have all this world,
give me Jesus.

2) Oh, and when we are apart, give me Jesus.
Give me Jesus,
you can have all this world,
give me Jesus.

3) Oh, and when we meet again
oh, how sweet to meet again, give me Jesus.
Give me Jesus,
you can have all this world,
give me Jesus.


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Monday Morning Offering: 5//20

Image: George Mendoza
I received many gifts over this past weekend
from folks wishing me well as I leave Concord
and that has led me to offer this prayer of thanksgiving
for all God's gifts to me...

Good morning, good God!

Help me, this Monday morning, Lord,
help me offer you my thanks and praise
for all I have,
all I've received
and all that I've been given...

Help me remember, Lord,
the history of all your gifts to me
over oh-so-many years...

Help me to focus less
on what I want and need
and more on all the ways
your generous hand has blessed me...

And keep me from being jealous
of whatever others have...

I offer you, Lord, my gratitude
for all the gifts you've offered me,
from the simplest to the greatest...

The week ahead, Lord,
is surely your gift to me:
another week to grow in your love,
in your mercy and your grace...

Make me grateful for the week ahead
and for any gifts, for all the gifts
that you may choose to send me...

Give me a generous heart, Lord,
to share with others what you have given me:
remind me that in sharing my gifts
they are not halved but doubled...

And Lord, show me how to use
the gifts already mine
to make peace with others,
to reach out to those in need,
to make things right and just
in my home, in my neighborhood
and wherever my steps may take me...

All good gifts come from your hand, Lord:
I offer you my thanks and praise
for all you've given me... 


We plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land
But it is fed and watered by God's almighty hand.
He sends the snow in winter,
the warmth to swell the grain

The breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain.

All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above.
Then thank the Lord, thank the Lord for all his love.

We thank thee then, O Father,
for all things bright and good:

The seed time and the harvest,
our life our health our food.

No gifts have we to offer for all thy love imparts
But that which thou desirest,
our humble thankful hearts.

All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above.
Then thank the Lord, thank the Lord for all his love.

I really wanna thank you Lord!
All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above.
Then thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord for all his love!

Music by Stephen Schwartz; lyrics from a German hymn written by Matthias Claudius, translated by Jane M. Campbell


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Two moments from my farewell reception

 As the days go by and things settle down a bit, I'll be sharing with you some of the many wonderful moments of my farewell reception on this past Friday night but here are two.  My sister and brother-in-law are on a Mediterranean cruise but sent these greetings from the deck of their ship.  The second is from Keith Lockhart, director of the Boston Pops Orchestra!


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Pause for Prayer: SUNDAY 5/19

Image source

Thank you, Lord,
for the gift of faith:
that strength, that power, 

that source within, showing me the way,
steadying my step
and offering me the hope I need to make my way
through all my troubles and trials...

Thank you, Lord,  
for the gift of Church:
that wounded, rag-tag, joyful lot of saints and sinners
bound in faith together,
seeking out your truth,
growing in the gospel's joy,
reaching out to others' needs -
all brothers and sisters in your love...

Thank you, Lord,
for the people all around me, behind me and before me:
all who've shaped the person I've become;
who've loved me in more ways than I can know,
who've loved me when I've failed to love them in return;
who've pardoned and forgiven me with mercy and with grace;
who've shared with me their sorrows and their joys,
who fill my heart with peace
and who help me trust and know with hope
that you're always by my side...

And thank you, Lord,
for people I've not yet met,
whose paths will cross my own
as your Spirit guides our ways...

Thank you, Lord,
for the mystery of your presence:
in the simplest and most ordinary moments of each day
and in the stillness, in the quiet time
I spend with you in prayer...

Receive my thanks and praise today
for you, Lord, are my God
from whom all blessings flow...



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Pause for Prayer: SATURDAY 5/18

Photo by Dupont Media World

Last night
my parish held a farewell reception for me
as I prepare, after 25 years of ministry in Concord,
to leave here at the end of the month:
five beautiful hours of love, tears and laughter! 

Photo by Dupont Media World

Greeting more than 550 people, Lord,
I was awash in love, embraced,
over and over again,
by affection and gratitude, held
in the arms of young and old, encircled
by memories and stories of sorrow and joy,
of faith and blessing and grace...

And all of this because you, Lord,
in word and sacrament
you have been at the heart of who we are
as people and pastor
this past quarter of a century...

All of this because it was you, Lord,
who brought us together,
you who spoke the word
to enlighten and guide us,
you who reached out with strength
to mend and heal us,
you whose Spirit filled and lifted
our minds and hearts
with grace and blessing and peace...

Last night, Lord, I was awash in love,
embraced over and over again
by affection and gratitude,
held in the arms of young and old
and all of this, Lord, but a hint,
a taste, a clue, a trace, a whisper
of your everlasting love embracing,
encircling and holding each of us,
each and every one of us,
in your grace, in your mercy
and in your peace...

We bless you, O Lord,
we praise you, our God,
from whom all blessings flow...



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Pause for Prayer: FRIDAY 5/17

Image source

Through so many days of clouds and rain
(and not just days but weeks!)
I've longed for the sun
and waited for its light and warmth...

And today it came,
a real springtime beauty,
and I rejoiced in its warmth
and soaked it in...

Would that I'd long as much for you, Lord,
longed for you to come
to end the rain of tears and the clouds
that chill my heart in May...

Would that I'd wait for you, Lord,
as I do for a warm spring day:
with pining anticipation,
my soul reaching out
for the warmth of your light...

Would that I longed for you, Lord,
as a long for the sun
on a day in May...



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Pause for Prayer: THURSDAY 5/16

Image source

I'm sure to spend some part of this day
   just waiting...

I'll wait for people to come and go,
   I'll wait for things to happen - or not,
      I'll wait for time to pass and a new day to come...

I'll wait for meetings to begin and be over,
   I'll wait for calls and email and answers to questions,
      I'll wait for breaks for coffee and for lunch...

And I'll wait for you, Lord:
  I'll wait for you to show your face and speak a word
      of comfort or challenge - or perhaps a word of mercy...

I'll wait for myself, too,
   when I stall, when I'm holding back,
      when I'm behind in so many ways...

I'm sure to spend a good part of this day

So, wait with me, Lord, I pray:
   be patient and wait with me...

It's so hard to wait alone...


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Thought I'd catch you up on my comings and goings...

My assignment as pastor at Holy Family in Concord ends on May 31 but contrary to what everyone is saying, I am not retiring. Retirement in the Archdiocese of Boston is at 75 so I still have three years until that time comes.

I will become a senior vicar at New Roads Catholic Community, the collaborative of St. Joseph and St. Luke Parishes in Belmont where Fr. Thom Mahoney, a good friend of mine, is the pastor.

What's a senior vicar, you ask? It's an older priest who's assigned to assist in a parish.  My work will be pastoral and not administrative - praise God! I will also have a lighter schedule, three days off a week instead of two.  It won't be easy to leave Concord after 25 years but I'm very pleased about where I'm going and challenged by the work I'll be doing.

Although I'll be working in Concord until May 31, my last weekend masses will be this coming Saturday and Sunday, May 18/19 - the 19th being the 46th anniversary of my ordination! (I didn't want my last weekend to be the long weekend of Memorial Day when many people will be away so I have another priest covering masses on the 25/26th.)
So, my time in Concord ends on May 31 - and then I'm taking a month's break: 2 weeks in Georgetown, Colorado where my sister and brother-in-law make their home and two weeks on the Cape. My work in Belmont will officially begin on July 1.

Yes, I'll continue to blog! I've already spoken to Fr. Frank Silva, the new pastor in Concord, who has no problem with my continuing to blog under the title of Concord Pastor. I've been writing under that head for 12 years now - it's my brand!

Please keep me in your prayers as I make this transition and be sure that you're in my prayers, too!


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Pause for Prayer: WEDNESDAY 5/15

It's true, isn't it?

God asks many things of all of us
and each of us knows, oh-so well 
what we find the hardest thing God asks of us:
maybe it's a change of heart?  
letting go of someone or some thing?
forgiveness of someone who's hurt us?
finally doing something we've put off doing?
finally putting a stop to something that needs to end?
greater honesty with others? with God? with ourselves?
just doing the next right thing?

Sometimes we're not sure where to begin
but the answer to that question is really simple...

Will I take that step today?
With God's help, will I take that step today?

Image source

Texting with God

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Pause for Prayer: TUESDAY 5/14

Image source

(I've posted this prayer several times before
but these days I need to pray it again - and again)

Every day, Lord,
I check my calendar,
I check my email,
I check my voice mail,
I check my snail mail,
I check my texts,
I check my Tweets,
I check my FB messages...

Well, "every day" isn't really accurate:
I should have said,
"three, four or more times" every day...

I do a lot of checking in, Lord,
and some days it seems I check in
with just about everybody
- except you...

So today,
(especially when I'm checking in
at one of my regular check-in spots)
today, Lord,
help me find a quiet time, a quiet place,
at least once today, just to stop
to check in with you,
and to pray...



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