God is Present Even When He Seems to be Absent

Homily – Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter, Year II – May 5, 2016
First Homily as a Deacon in the STA Chapel – Saint Meinrad Seminary, St. Meinrad, IN.

Focus:              God is present even when He seems to be absent.
Function:        Remember what God has done so as to strengthen your hope in what God is doing.


St. Mary's - Red Lake

A little while and you will no longer see me
And again a little while and you will see me

The poorest area within the Diocese of Crookston is the Red Lake Nation, which is a sovereign nation for the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians. Drug use is high.  Literacy levels are low.  Many children are born addicted to heroin or with fetal alcohol syndrome.  The crime rate is high.  The unemployment rate is over 50%.  The average lifespan is 45 years.

In the midst of the Red Lake Nation sits St. Mary’s Mission. The mission includes the parish and a small school.  It is making a difference.  Most of the kids at the school can read at or above their grade level.  Because they find a sense of belonging at the mission – a sense of family – most of the kids will not join a gang in the future.

Fr. Jerry Rogers is the pastor of St. Mary’s Mission. As you can imagine, it is a very difficult assignment.  Resources are scarce.  Most families cannot afford to pay the $425/year tuition.  Fr. Jerry works hard to raise funds so that the mission can continue.

A little while and you will no longer see me.

Last week, someone broke into Fr. Jerry’s office and stole his wallet and the Sunday collection, totaling $530. That must have made him so angry.  He’s working his tail off, he has virtually no resources to work with, and even the small amount that he does have to work with is stolen.  At some point, he had to ask himself – “What’s the use?  Why not give up?”

And again a little while and you will see me.

Then there was a knock at the door. A woman comes in.  “Father, I heard that the collection was stolen, I want to give you something…”  She puts a handful of change on his desk and leaves.  Half an hour later, a man comes in.  “Father, we don’t want you to think that we’re all like this.  It’s not a lot, but we want you to have it”.  He puts a handful of dollar bills and some change on the table.    This goes on for the next two days – people come into Fr. Jerry’s office at different times and give handfuls of change and dollar bills.  $2000.

And again a little while and you will see me.

Fr. Jerry goes to DMV to renew driver’s license, since it was in his wallet. The woman behind the counter says “That’ll be $16.75.”  That’s when Fr. Jerry realizes that he doesn’t have his wallet – it was stolen, after all, and he didn’t bring his checkbook.  How is he going to pay the fee?  Then he remembers that one of the people had given him money while was out of his office, and he had put it in his pocket for the time being.  He empties his pockets on the counter and they add it up.  You guessed it – exactly $16.75 – to the penny.  The DMV employee was moved to tears.

God is the one who makes our work bear fruit. He teaches us to put our trust in Him and not in ourselves.  God is present.  God is present even when it seems He is absent.

He takes a seemingly hopeless situation, and brings great good out of it. He stirs the hearts of people to give generously.  He turns the one stolen Sunday collection into the equivalent of four Sunday collections.  He enkindles faith in the heart of a woman working at a local DMV office.  He brings hope to a humble priest by reminding him that he is not alone in his ministry.

He teaches a baby deacon to depend on him, even when that means scrapping his carefully prepared homily at 7:00 PM and starting over.

A little while and you will no longer see me
And again a little while and you will see me

Brothers and sisters, we are called to depend on him and not on ourselves.

Remember what God has done so as to strengthen your hope in what God is doing.
Remember what God has done so as to strengthen your hope in what God will do.

He will bring good out of evil. He will shine light in the darkness.

He will bring life out of death.

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