ON BEING KNOWN…

Author: Fr. Mike Byron
October 14, 2018

When I was a student at St. John’s University 40 years ago, every fall as part of the football homecoming weekend celebrations the students put on a campus-wide talent show.  It drew a large crowd and it featured all kinds of acts, whether vocal, or instrumental or magical or dramatic or comedic.  And for two of those years it also featured me.  I did nothing more than stand at a lectern for a few minutes, alone, and deliver a speech which was an impression of our then-priest-campus chaplain, Fr. Don Talafous OSB.  I must say that it was a very good impression, which was intended to be funny and mostly was.  I was doing a parody of some of his regular preaching themes, and of course Fr. Don was there to hear it.  He laughed along with everybody else, but even afterward whenever my name is mentioned to him in a conversation he is reported to respond, “Oh that Byron—awful, terrible person!” (always with a bright-smile and twinkle in the eye).

Many of you here at Pax will know Fr. Don, or know of him.  He is now well into his nineties and still extremely active in alumni relations for St. John’s.  And among his most amazing gifts is his capacity to remember names and the stories of people’s lives—thousands and thousands of them from among the students he came to know over the decades.  When he met you he didn’t just want to know about you; he wanted to get to know you.  What’s going on in your life, and how are you?  I can sometimes go for years without bumping into him, and when I do I am always greeted by name.

I happened to be at St. John’s Abbey this week for a retreat and I attended Mass one evening.  I realized after I sat down in the choir stall that I was a few rows back and across the aisle from Fr. Don, who had not seen me come into the church.  On my way to communion I tapped him on the shoulder and just said, “Hi Don.”  And with no context or prior knowledge that I was there he said, “I hear you’re in Eden Prairie now.”  Incredible.  To know that you are known, that there is someone who cares enough to want to know you even when they wouldn’t have any reason or responsibility for doing that; what a gift.  What an honor.  And, potentially, what a scary thing.

Why scary?  Because the people who know us most intimately also know our greatest vulnerabilities, and hold the stories of some of our greatest personal failures.  That they continue to love us anyway is a priceless treasure, and very very humbling.  Any spouse who has ever been in a healthy marriage knows all about this.  There is much that we could focus on in today’s gospel of Mark—the wealth of the rich man, the camel and the needle’s eye, the costs and rewards of discipleship.  But there is something more basic and prior to all that going on here.

Mark tells us that Jesus was setting out for a journey when this strange man runs up to him and simply presents himself on his knees; “What must I do to be saved?” he asks.  And at first Jesus gives him the stock answer that he or anybody could have given out to any good Jew, i.e. follow the commandments.  But after all that Jesus says, “You are lacking in one think, specifically your attachment to wealth.”

Well how did Jesus know that?  How could he have seen directly into his man’s heart?  That man was known by God.  What a blessing, and how frightening.  To be remembered by name.

Of course, the same is true for each one of us.  We are known and remembered by the one who first loved us and is present to us always.  What a gift, and what a cause for humility.  God celebrates the goodness that is in us, and is also very well aware of that which threatens to keep us from being closer to God—that “one thing” of which Jesus speaks today, the thing that needs to be called out of us, that attachment that threatens to be, for us, more important than being intimate with Jesus.  We are known, loved, and challenged.

This weekend we dedicate to the responsibility of stewardship here at Pax Christi—as we do each year about this time.  We commit to one another to keep this place strong.

As you know, in many ways this is a new season for our church and for our parish.  This is my first autumn among you as pastor, and I am still learning about the absolutely amazing stewardship that is poured out here every day.  As I’ve said before, so few parishes have the resources to do the good work that we do here on such a large scale.  God has known us, has loved us, has blessed us, and has challenged us.  The gospel today invites us all to consider what it is that we have to offer to the mission of our parish and of the larger church, and to consider also what may be that “one thing” that threatens to hold us back from a more complete self-offering .

Speaking of the larger church, we are in a new season in our archdiocese of being out from under the shadow of bankruptcy for the first time in almost four years.  And we are newly come to terms with the many victims of clergy abuse for the first time in decades.  We have new opportunities to heal and reconcile and move forward together.  It won’t be quick and it won’t be easy, but there are new roads open to us this season.  

And of course in our national and world-wide church it is a new season of chaos and disgrace and of summons to repentance and truth-telling.  That is very painful, but it will ultimately be transformative.  Where light shines into the darkness, new life is possible.

I think that a rock solid Catholic Christian community like Pax Christi can be a very strong light helping us all to move through and out of darkness if we will keep up our resolve to doing so.  Our stewardship will ensure the ability for us to do just that.  This parish is the very model of what is possible for any and every faith community to do and to be as disciples.  Let others look here when they are weary or disheartened.

We are known.  Our lives are remembered and held sacred by God.  And the attachments that hinder us are called out of us every time we pray, celebrate Eucharist, or engage in service.

Thank you for all that you do and will do in being stewards of this mission.  We are here together because of what we treasure most:  The God who knows us and who remembers our stories and our lives, by name, and who will never forsake us—even in this moment of trial.  Please respond to the invitation to stewardship which you have received recently in the mail.  We can’t do what we do without all of us saying “yes.”  And please remember that your yes is specifically for Pax Christi—it is not a referendum on the archdiocese or the worldwide Christian institution.  It’s about a yes to us.

To be specific, if you are able to increase your giving to Pax by two per cent in the coming year.  This will be of enormous benefit to the mission.  And if you give regularly by electronic debit, please consider contacting your bank to increase that for the coming year.  You can find our 2018 year-end financial report in this month’s parish magazine.  It is very hopeful and a source for real gratitude. (And all that is even before I got here!)


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Pax Christi Catholic Community

12100 Pioneer Trail
Eden Prairie, MN 55347

952-941-3150

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