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Moving Mountains

St. Cecilia, Cleveland

St. Cecilia, Cleveland

Because Father Dan wasn’t the formal celebrant on St. Cecilia’s last day, he couldn’t deliver the homily. That’s a rule. According to canon law, the Bishop says the last Mass and gives the homily.

Father Dan was leaving his neighborhood, his life, and his job of over 30 years. He, like us, was losing his community. He felt sometimes that the Church was telling him that his efforts in the city had been worthless, vain, something to toss aside. He had put on a good face for all of us, but I heard later from friends and family that he was so depressed they were worried about him. “It was worse for him than facing his death,” his sister Donna told me.

No doubt at that final Mass he felt bereaved and angry. This was the end, and he had no choice. On Sunday, April 25, 2010, he was entitled to only a short statement at the end of Mass. This is a transcription of his remarks (which you can watch here).

 

Let me tell you something I’ve noticed about my opinions. (Pause. Raised eyebrows. Laughter from the congregation.) I had a friend, Jerry, a brother really, who lived out in Las Vegas. I was raising kids here, and I brought them out there to stay at his house where they’d see a family working together. A fine gentleman, he was fun to be with and healthy and had all kinds of good things going for him. (Father Dan leaned forward and stage whispered conspiratorially.) He was a Republican. I said, “Jerry, how can you be such a fine human being and be so messed up politically?” And he said, “I was going to ask you the same thing!”

Along the line, I’ve noticed that the authors who write the things I believe in are the smartest authors in the world. The greatest artists paint the things I like. It’s so easy to get caught up in our own opinion. Sometimes in time, working together, we can see what was the right decision. Sometimes we can’t. Our life is a process of moving on. We are called as Christians and we are called as Catholics to be a pilgrim people. A pilgrim people, we’re called to build a world that is worthwhile, and that world is everywhere. That world is in your place of employment. That world is in your school, in your home, in your neighborhood, in your community, and then we need to look a little farther out, because the Word has to be brought there, too.

As you go forward from here today, I know you’re sad. I’m sad, too.  But don’t embarrass me by being a Sunday-go-to-meetin’, sit-in-the-back-of-the-church, don’t-bother-me-because-I’m-hurt kind of Catholic. We don’t need those! The world needs, I need, we all need for you to go out there and join parish councils, join liturgy committees, and look out for the social justice activities going on. Don’t forget this neighborhood. Don’t forget the plight of the people who are suffering from so many things. Yesterday they marched from here to Luke Easter Park praying for peace, for justice, for empowerment. We can make a difference wherever we go.

Go. Go with a spirit of joy. Go with the Spirit in your heart. Go with the belief that we are seeds just waiting for potential to be unlocked. Grow and bloom where you are planted. Grow by nourishing yourself with the sacrament of Eucharist. Go with the strength of the Word. Go with the power of all you are and all you know, and go with the power of all we have been for each other. As we go forward, as we grow, we can trust that our God is going with us.

Our life is too short to be bothered with resentment, with negativity, with any of that kind of stuff. Shake the dust. Shake, shake, shake it off!

And if there’s anything you’ve learned from me, I hope you’ve learned that in all circumstances we are called to be the Christians we are, and we are all ambassadors, and where we go we bring healing. We bring His Word, and when they see us, they ought to see Him.

I’ve picked the songs for today, so they would be my real sermon. Take those songs home. Sing them. Sing them at the top of your voice. Listen to those words. The words will speak a message to you of what we need to do and where we need to go and how we need to get there.

There’s one other song I always like.

 

Father Dan broke into song. The choir and congregation joined in, and so did JT’s saxophone. The clapping started, and the people rose. This was the song.

 

Now, Lord, don’t move my mountain

But give me the strength to climb

And, Lord, don’t take away my stumbling blocks

But lead me all around

 

Oh Lord, you don’t have to move the mountain

But give me the strength to climb

And, Lord, don’t take away my stumbling blocks

But lead me all around

 

Lord, I don’t bother nobody

I try to treat everybody the same

But every time I turn my back

They scandalize my name

 

But, oh, Jesus, you don’t have to move my mountain

But give me the strength to climb

And, Lord, don’t take away my stumbling blocks

But lead me all around

 

Now when my folks would slay me

 These things they will try to do

But, Lord, don’t touch ’em

But within their heart

Make ’em give their life to you

 

Oh, Master, you don’t have to move my mountain

But give me the strength to climb

And, Lord, don’t take away my stumbling blocks

But lead me all around

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