Letter from Fr. Keith (August 29)

Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Dunstan’s,

God’s Word holds a special place in our hearts and lives. The Word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, says the letter to the Hebrews (4:12). From that we learn that when we go to the Bible or hear the Word of God read in church, there is something unique about the experience, setting it apart from our encounter any other kind of word. God’s Word isn’t simply a story about people and events in the distant past—as an historical novel would be. Yes, God’s Word recounts events and people from long ago and far away, but it’s always more. God’s Word tells the story of our own lives and the world in which we live. God’s Word reveals God to us, and it reveals us to ourselves. Let anyone who has ears to hear, listen! says Jesus (Mk. 4:23).

Another interesting observation about the Word comes to us from the Scriptures. So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll. And he said to me, “Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter (Rev. 10: 9-10). In other words, our first encounter with God and his Word is often enchanting. As time goes on, however, things may seem different. The initial exuberance and enthusiasm may give way to hesitation and reluctance or more.

That is the experience of the prophet, Jeremiah, in this Sunday’s first reading. Though at first reluctant to accept the prophetic call (see Jer. 1:4-10), later he prays: Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts (15:16).   They were honey in his mouth.

Today, though, his experience is radically different. The Word has not only become part of him, he’s proclaimed it to people who refused to hear because it upset the applecart of their comfortable lives. Religious and civil leaders wanted rid of him. When we come upon him today (20:7-9), he’s just been beaten at the direction of one of the temple priests, and put on public display to be mocked and to serve as a warning to anyone else who might be thinking about following in his footsteps.

Jeremiah is caught on the horns of a dilemma. He wants out, to be free of the awesome responsibility he carries. At the same time, he’s bursting to speak the Word that fills his heart.

Enter Peter in the gospel (Mt. 16:21-27). Well acquainted with Jeremiah’s anguish, he knows Jesus, if he keeps going as he has been, will be headed down the same road. And not only Jesus, but his followers—himself included. He tries to discourage Jesus from his path, and receives a rebuke that must have set him back on his heels.  Jesus adds these bewildering words to Peter’s scolding, For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

What’s he saying? Lots, of course. We might summarize it this way. For everyone, discipleship and life, in general, can sometimes be overwhelming. While we may want to run and hide, that really won’t be helpful as an ongoing alternative. That’s what Jesus means by our wanting to save our life, but losing it in the long-run: opting to live in a bubble, immunized against reality, diminishing our experience of living. A far more life-giving, life-sharing, choice is to muster our courage, call on the support of others and the grace of God, and take the next step—even if hesitant and faltering. That’s finding our life, according to the Lord.

Today, the word of God speaks to our own moments when life is tough and we feel overwhelmed, wanting to bury our heard in the sand, to run away and hide. Who among us hasn’t had those times? No, encourages Jesus. He inspires us, “Get up, lick your wounds, and keep going.” That’s what he did after he shed tears of fear in Gethsemane’s garden and wondered if the cup could pass him by. Anguish didn’t have the final say. The hope of resurrection, fullness of life, did. So for Jeremiah. So for Peter. So for you and me.

Over the last few weeks, as you know, we celebrated First Communion and Confirmation, delayed from the spring because of COVID-19 restrictions. Please continue to pray for these children/young people and their families.

I’ve several times extended my gratitude and the gratitude of our parish community to the 30 + parishioners who have offered themselves in service to us since our Masses resumed. They’re continuing a true ministry of hospitality: welcoming, guiding people to seats, and being an overall hospitable, helpful presence. Oh, and we can’t forget their cleaning skills after each of the Masses! And, the icing on the cake: I get great company from them! They’d welcome new participants any time. Contact brhod12@hotmail.com; jawhite5414@gmail.com; or call the parish office 902-894-3486. Another option is to let one of the ministers know after Mass some day that you’d like to be involved. Thanks, too, to those who look after the registration lists and register people without access to a computer. I’ll give you the contact numbers again: 902-367-7829, 902-892-9387, 902-621-1988. Share those numbers, please, with anyone you know who’d like to have them. Great, too, if you offered to register someone who requires that service.

Continue, please, to pray for residents of long-term care. Mom is doing well. My sister from New Brunswick was recently home for a visit and spent a lot of time with her. This coming week, it was announced, visiting restrictions will be further eased.

Another group whose intentions we’re invited to remember: those required to self-isolate when they come here for school or for work, especially those far from home. It’s difficult, I’m sure, for some. We’re often buoyed up by the prayers of others—many of whom we’ll never meet. It’s all part of the gift of being among the communion of saints.

This week, we celebrated the memorials of a mother and her son: Saints Monica and Augustine. We invoke their intercession upon all of us.

Peace be with you,

Fr. Keith

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