Letter from Fr. Keith (June 19)

Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Dunstan’s,

Last week, we talked about the Old-Testament-Elijah. We recalled his prophetic mission in the land of Israel some eight centuries before the time of Jesus. We further remembered his later prominence among the Jewish people, who came to identify him as the one who would announce the Messiah when he finally arrived. That carried over into New Testament times, when some believed John the Baptist—even Jesus—to be Elijah returning to announce the Messiah had come. 

At the Masses this past week, the Elijah sequence came to an end when Elijah, walking along with his protégé, Elisha, by his side, is taken up to heaven in a whirlwind. Before the two part, Elijah asks what he might do for the younger man. Elisha answers, Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit. After Elijah leaves his side, Elisha takes Elijah’s cloak and moves along. (See 2 Kings 2:1, 6-14.)

The Book of Sirach (48:1-14) takes up the story. Before listing Elijah’s great marvels, Sirach proclaims, How glorious you were, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds! Whose glory is equal to yours? We’d expect the answer to be a resounding, “No-one!!” Not so. After giving Elijah his due, Sirach shifts the focus to his successor. When Elijah was enveloped in the whirlwind, Elisha was filled with his spirit. He performed twice as many signs and marvels with every utterance of his mouth.

As wondrous as was Elijah, Elisha, it seems, was all the more.

We often see that in the Bible. The last becomes the first. In John’s gospel, Andrew introduces his brother, Peter, to Jesus, and right away takes a back seat (see Jn. 2:35-42). The same happens with Barnabas, as recounted by the Acts of the Apostles, after he introduces Paul to the Apostles and the Christian community at Jerusalem (see Acts 9:23-30). Though the disciple is not above the teacher (Mt. 10:24), Jesus, speaking of his own mighty deeds, says of those believers who will follow him after he has returned to the Father—our generation included—they will do greater works than these (see Jn. 14:12). Those “greater works” are done, of course, in Christ by the power of the Spirit to the glory of the Father. I often think of those words from Jesus when I hear of the many astonishing feats done for the betterment of humanity through the marvels of science or medicine or technology. Many of them, the miracles of today. I know I’ll call those words to heart and mind again when announcements are made of breakthroughs in the treatment and prevention of COVID-19.

It’s all to say that the work of salvation, while brought to fulfillment in Christ Jesus, has yet to be fully realized. Like Elijah and Andrew and Barnabas and those countless others, we all have our role to play, and when we have offered that to God, in Christ, and to the world, it’s a wonderful grace to step aside in peace, and let another perform twice as many signs and marvels—celebrating them and cheering them on all the way. “Don’t get too caught up,” Jesus and Elijah and those others might well say to us, “in evaluating and judging your own contribution. That leads to comparisons and competition and, often, to strife. Do the best you can, as other-focused as you are able to be, and let it go. Pray God to bring it to completion in his own way and time, in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (see Philippians 1:6).

At the end of this coming week, we enter Stage IV of our moving out of coronavirus restrictions. This will have implications for our worship together. Please check back mid-to-late-week for an update from the diocese. The link will be posted in a letter on this website.

You are invited to put your name in for weekday Mass by, as in the previous weeks, emailing massatstdunstans@gmail.com or by telephoning 902-894-3486. If necessary, leave a message. You will be contacted to confirm a day.

We plan to livestream the Mass from SDU Place Sunday at 10:30. Follow the link: https://www.facebook.com/stdunstansbasilica

The pandemic remains close to mind for all of us. So, too, our call to live hopefully and responsibly. Let us continue to keep the situation in our prayer. In the meantime, summer’s heat has arrived early. Enjoy it—and some shade, as necessary! The evening breezes have been glorious.

Know that my prayer accompanies you every day. At each weekday Mass, our intercessions include a petition for “our absent brothers and sisters.” Please pray for me.

Happy Father’s Day to the Dads! May you know and live the blessing of your vocation.

Peace be with you and yours,

Fr. Keith


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