Just over a month ago, on the day that we found out Fr. Ken Schmidt was reassigned, I wrote my farewell to him. One would think that would be the end of it … but I’ve got one more thing to say, having been inspired by his last homily at St. Tom’s.
I was very curious about what Ken would say last night, not just because it was his last one, but because of the Gospel reading for yesterday. See, being the impatient geek that I am, I’ve signed up for a daily e-newsletter from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). They send out the readings for each day’s mass, usually around 3AM in the morning. Yesterday’s reading (for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time) came from I Kings 19:16b, 19-21; Galatians 5:1, 13 – 18; and Luke 9:51-62. The end of the Gospel reading sounded very harsh and condemning to me because it reads:
“And another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.’To him Jesus said, ‘No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.'”
So let me get this straight. If we take time to say farewell to our loved ones, we aren’t worthy of the kingdom because we had the nerve to say “Goodbye” before heading out to shout to the world about Christ? Seems a little unfair to me … especially since the St. Tom’s community (and many other parishes throughout the Kalamazoo diocese) have been saying “Goodbye” to pastors and priests. Like the whole St. Tom’s parish is going to hell now.
Granted, that’s an exaggeration, but I didn’t think it was the right tone for what we needed to hear at Ken’s last Mass.
Or was it?
Ken’s homily was, as always, great. Most of the homily was spent describing how he was feeling. Emotions ranging from sadness at the move, excitement about what lies ahead, honor for being recognized by the Bishop that he is ready to lead a larger parish.
He said (and this is where I started to be impacted by the dust in the church) that he also felt a sense of abandonment. He felt as if he was abandoning the people at St. Tom’s because there is so much left to do, so much that isn’t finished.
Let me step away from this for a moment and say something directly to Ken. You’re not abandoning us. I don’t feel that you are. If anything, you are showing us how to be strong, how to be faithful, how to be better than we are. You’re doing that because you’re upholding that part of your priestly vows that says you will follow the Bishop and his successors. You’re holding up your end of the deal that was made when you became a diocesan priest (and there are so many people in the world who don’t adhere to deals).
So thank you, Ken, for providing that shining example for us to see.
OK … back to the homily.
Ken talked about Tony Nelson and Larry Paulick, two of the bikers who were killed this month who were a very big part of the St. Tom’s family. He said, if they were asked about things being finished when they died that they would probably have said “NO WAY!” Pretty much everyone would say that.
But change happens and we have to move forward because the world keeps spinning and the Sun keeps shining, setting, rising and shining again.
When Ken eventually got to the readings, he only referred to the Gospel. He only referred to the plow. If we look back and live only in the past, how can we move forward in our spiritual journey. How can we truly understand the gift that Christ has given us, if we keep looking back? Looking back, we will see our old selves. We see our sinfulness. We see our shortcomings. We see the dark.
It’s OK to look back to see where we’ve come from. It’s OK to look back and smile at the good things in our past. Ken said he’ll look back from time to time and smile about the friends he’s had here. He’ll look back at the wonderful things we’ve done together. He’ll see those things, he’ll smile and laugh about them … but then he’ll look ahead.
You see, if we look ahead, we see the light. We see where we are going (even though it may be a bit fuzzy/hazy at times). We’ll look ahead and we’ll see Tony and Larry and those who have gone on before us.
We’ll see Christ … and that’s why we don’t have to worry about the plow.
An excellent point made.
Once again it was made by a guy I call Ken who I got a selfie with (who was wearing some really cool vestments, I must say).
Thanks again, my friend!