I have lived on Highland Road for almost 12 years now. That’s longer than some but not nearly as long as others. I have never in my entire time here witnessed, in certain areas, the type of flooding that has occurred during this past month. A couple of weeks ago when we had those few days of constant, driving rain, the unthinkable almost happened. Water stopped short of reaching my back door. That has never even come close to happening. Worse than that, however, are the homes in the area that actually flooded. Several members of our church community and others in the area have had to move out, at least temporarily. Now, I’m not expert. I’m not engineer of any type, but it seems to me that this damage is due in large part to the continual building that is happening in and around our city. We are using up so much of our green space. Last week, I drove down one of the streets in the neighborhood in Old Goodwood where I grew up, and at least half of the homes on that particular street are not the original homes. People buy old homes. They level them. And then builders come in and build HUGE new ones. I have lived here all my life. I love the City of Baton Rouge, not Lake Baton Rouge. Yet that seems to be where we’re headed. As a church, we did all we could to help those victims of the 2016 flood, never thinking that it would happen in certain places. Now it has. I also hear talk of another development at the intersection of Bluebonnet and Highland. And God help us if anyone is ever allowed to develop the property behind the Pennington Center. Will it stop? Can it be monitored? I have no idea. In fact, as do so many others, I feel powerless before this trend that continues to put more and more areas in and outside of the city at risk. That's why I'm writing this blog. For most of my life there was a sense of community in our city. Now I worry. I think that this type of gobbling up of green land is selfishness and greed in its purest form. I just wish we could all come together on this. At the risk of sounding arrogant or at least over-confident, I’m going to end by quoting from a talk that I will be giving to some of our priests in July. “The body, indeed, has many parts. Each of us is a part. None of us is the whole.”
From the Tee Box
Some mornings, in reflecting on the scriptures for Mass that day, I will actually listen to them. I usually do this by visiting the U.S. Bishops’ website (www.usccb.org) and clicking on the “podcast” tab under the daily scriptures. I do this, because sometimes something will strike me when I actually hear the word, as opposed to simply reading it. This morning was no exception. While doing this, it occurred to me that there is a difference between CURIOSITY and DESIRE. Neither of them are bad in and of themselves, and the 2 are often connected. But there is a difference. In our readings for daily Mass these past few days, Jesus continues to appear to his followers. In each encounter, there are some common emotions. One of these is fear. Another is, perhaps, disappointment. But always—always—there is curiosity. In fact, he names it clearly today in his response to the apostles, when he says, “you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.” (from John 6:22-29). While they were focused on the physical feeding that he had done for them, there was also an ongoing curiosity over the things that were happening.
Are you still curious about Jesus? I know I am. What would it have been like in society during his time. What would it have been like to walk with him, listen to him, speak with him? Curiosity is a natural part of our faith, the teachings of our religion, and, most importantly, our personal relationship with Christ. While this is a part of our faith journey, however, it is our desire that hopefully continues to grow. Think about it like this. During life, we do, at times, grow weary of each other. We might even grow tired of each other or begin to take, even the people we love the most, for granted. Hopefully that never happens in our relationship with God. Hopefully we never forget that we never stop growing.
You ARE NOT Just Another…
I’ve never really cared for icebreakers during retreats or any other group function, for that matter. It’s usually because they’re a little too silly for me. However, lately I have been recalling one from a retreat of which I was a part 31 years ago. It was, in fact, my first retreat to assist with as a priest. I had just been ordained about 5 months before. It was an overnight retreat for high school youth from various schools. During our first small group gathering we asked each of the students to do the following: choose a word that best describes you, but make sure that the word begins with the same letter as the first letter of your first name. So, for example, we came to a young lady named Lucy. She was a happy girl whose laugh was contagious. She chose for herself, “Laughing Lucy.” As we went around the group for sharing, we got closer and closer to a young man who had been rather quiet all day. He looked a little sad or preoccupied. When it came time for him to share, he was reluctant to do so at first. Then, however, he simply said, “I’m Just Jason.” One of the leaders asked him if he wanted to share why he had chosen that word, but he did not. Later in the day, during our lunch break, I took a walk with Jason. As we walked and talked, I came to know a young man who was in a difficult place in life. Along with other issues, he had been having a difficult time making friends, he was struggling with his grades in school, and so on. He had chosen the name, “Just Jason,” because, at that point, at least, he didn’t really feel like his life amounted to much. As we visited, I did the best that I could to help him believe that he was much more than just another guy. About a year later, I ran into Jason in the mall, and sure enough, he was in a much better place. He had never forgotten that small group activity or our conversation. He had grown to believe that he was so much more than what he thought he was a year earlier.
We have been celebrating Mass this year with our students at school but doing it by grade level. Due to the COVID-19 precautions, we feel this is the safest way to do so. Recently, the first reading of the day was from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah. Part of that passage reads, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born, I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.” (Jer. 1:1) It is beyond our understanding to consider, that, before we were even conceived in the womb of our mother, God knew us by name and had a special plan for us, a purpose, a vocation. It is beyond our human understanding to fully comprehend what it means to be created in the image and likeness of God, but we are. You and I are wonderfully made, and nothing can take that away. No major life pitfall, no hurtful words or actions inflicted on us by others, no-thing. Period.
So, the next time you’re feeling low, down, or beaten, remember this: you are definitely NOT just another. You’re not just another name on the list, not just another number, not just another person on the street. You are a living, breathing, vessel of God’s love and the Holy Spirit. Draw strength from that promise.
Bring that promise to others.