I went to 7:30am Mass. The priest who said Mass this morning was Fr. Baran. He was a priest from my late teenage/early adult years from St. Joseph church in South Norwalk. He had officiated Lisa and Rich’s wedding back in 1986. He looked a bit different and looked like he walked in pain. I was taken back and felt sad a bit to see him struggle and lean on the altar for support (There is an image that was not lost on me…..how often do we or should we “lean on the altar for support”? Here he was physically living those words!!)
On the way out of church I chatted with a man. He explained that Fr. Baran had been diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy. It was like a shot to my heart. I thought maybe he had had surgery or took a fall on the ice. I did not know of his physical challenge until this moment! How could the young, fun loving guy in my mind match this news? The man was so genuinely happy that Fr. Baran was doing well. The man and I agreed that Fr. Baran was “such a good guy”. I told him I’d keep him in my prayers. I really will.
Fr. Baran’s sermon started off by highlighting a statement; “They were like sheep without a shepherd.” What an image! The thought of a leaderless group roaming around not sure where they were going is an interesting one. Back in Jesus’ day, these people the reading referred to did not know what to fear, what to desire, where to go, whom to follow. He continued by saying that Jesus needed to teach them: He was there to be a teacher among the others. He pointed out that it was not the content that was so critical for them (and now us) all to be taught, but rather it is important that we are taught the connections between what we do physically and the faith that keeps us coming back to the Gospel.
Sheep will be led back to a safe and secure place, but only if they have a shepherd who guides them. We, everyday people will often wander aimlessly if we don’t have something that leads us physically back to a focused place…that may be our faith base.
If I think a little deeper…as a teacher, the content really doesn’t matter! Page 8, 10, 95, 137 are just pages of a book that a teacher might refer to. The important role of a teacher is to help the students (no matter what age) to see the connections between the details and facts. Teachers lead others in a way that focuses them and helps them to see the connections. The role of the teacher is one that brings a focus back to pieces of information that on the surface might seem to be disconnected, random bits of “just stuff”.
Jesus, or a faith base, does the same thing. Often, from the random pieces of stories and “biblical tidbits” comes a focus that is quite simple most of the time. It is a matter of “following the leader” and seeing the connection between what our faith says and how we interact with the physical world around us. And, most often, this connection between faith and our physical connection is quite simple – – LOVE.