There are no words that can adequately express the gratitude and the hope that I feel as I write this. Our first Mass back in Assumption church was a moment of grace and blessing, for me, for our parish family, and for our entire region. Even though it is impossible to thank everyone, and easy to forget someone if naming names, I would like to acknowledge Bishop Fabbro’s presence, and his ongoing support for our parish. I am also deeply grateful to Paul Mullins for his persistent work on bringing us to this day. Without his study of what went on in the past and what we could do for our future, we would not be back in the church today. And then there are the many, many, many hearts and hands, of our staff and volunteers, that worked to make our re-entry such an effortless and smooth event. There were countless hours of planning, lots of muscle power cleaning and moving. There was documentation. The picnic was a joyful event. All of it combined proved to me yet again that I am privileged to serve in one of the best parishes anywhere! I pray that God continue to bless us on our journey.
Our gospel passage this weekend gives us three stories about loss: one sheep out of a hundred wanders off; a woman loses one coin in ten; and a younger son considers his father as dead, runs off and spends his inheritance. The stories don’t end there, though, just like Jesus’ story doesn’t end with the crucifixion. Instead, God goes above and beyond what would be expected in his day and age: the shepherd leaves the 99 unattended and goes after the stray; the woman scours the house looking for the coin; and the father watches for his son and instead of punishing him throws a party when he returns. That is our story, over and over again. As individuals we stray from the path of goodness over and over again. In our flawed humanity we are sinful; we can be selfish; we hurt others, yet God is always calling us back, always looking for us, and celebrating when we come back to where God wants us. As a parish community, we were away from Assumption church for almost five years. Even though this may be reading into the gospel story, I think that God has called us back. If the joy I witnessed this past Sunday is any indication of reality, God is happy indeed. It was an event worth celebrating! I pray that we always recognize that no matter what we do or who we are, God is always ready to welcome us with open arms.