The Honoring of Commitment.

Do you trust yourself? Do others trust you? Do you follow through with promises you make to yourself, your family, your communities, and others? Or, do you let yourself and others down on a regular basis like skipping your workout, not making time to eat well, going to bed late, saying “yes” to one more project you don’t really want or expect to do, allowing others to ‘pick up the slack’ where you left off or just walked away, not attending Mass weekly? Are repeatedly feeding your mind with “I’m not worth it,” or “Other people’s needs are less important than mine.” If so, then this week’s message is for you.
You see, I already used it for myself. I do every anniversary to my priesthood, which is tomorrow. I stop, think, look back, pray, reminisce, and often cry. I look at my failures, my successes, my ‘should have’s’ and ‘why did I do that’s’! I use my anniversary as a time to gauge how well a Christian I am; how good a Catholic priest. I am not always the best, but I always give my best. I know how to commit, how to follow through, and how to love abundantly. I do so, often with the harsh words of some, the disdain of others, and a few compliments now and then, too. I continue on because I made a promise some 30+ years ago when I decided to begin a journey to ordained life. I renewed it as a Deacon, then a Priest, a Friar, and then a Bishop. I am not proud of every moment, but I am proud of my journey overall.
This Sunday we will mark another journey as we dedicate the new beautiful iron gates for our cemetery. It may seem like not much at all until you realize that these gates were dreamed of, fashioned collaboratively, planned for, and then made reality through work, dedication, and commitment. The funds came from the Cemetery Trust – it is only there because people we never met gave generously to create it so we would not have to worry about the care of the cemetery property. These gates also follow on the heels of many such projects: purchasing this property we now call home, the extensive renovations, lighting, painting, land development, tree removal, numerous upgrades and interior renovations, the school and offices, new kitchen and appliances, the St. Francis statue that greets us, and soon the pet memorial garden and new St. Francis Section F with a beautiful new Joliet Francis Statue there, too! All of it resulted from deep and generous commitments, mine and many others, who have honored their promises to God and to one another. But some of our parishioners have not done so. Some of have failed to support us on a weekly basis through stewardship, some have already neglected to keep up on their Building Campaign pledges, some are not showing up to serve Mass, as promised, to read, serve as acolytes and Eucharistic Ministers, and some do not even attend Mass weekly. In other words, they have failed to honor their commitments.

St. Francis of Assisi was a man without covetousness, without anger, and without delusion and a person who committed himself to the special ministry of “healing wounds, to uniting what was falling apart, and bringing home those who have lost their way.” Through his commitment, his legacy has lasted down through the centuries to us here today. Think of this: none of what we have, none of the great gifts we recognize and honor and live our lives by would exist if he just walked away and failed to keep his promises. From the famous Prayer of St Francis, to our school that cares for so many children, our parish, our cemetery, down to our beautiful campus today; from my own vows as a Friar to our welcoming everyone – none of this would be here for we would not be here because here would not be.

This week we build yet again on the legacy we started just a mere nine years ago or so with our coming together to bless these new cemetery gates, but by doing so we do something more: we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice, who served this nation without running away whom we call Veterans, and something deeper: we honor commitment.

I am a man of honor and commitment. I am not perfect, but I have never once failed you. You may think me too hard, but I never ask of you more than I double on myself. I have worked for you without pay, while being treated for a brain tumor, and without sleep for days’ end, and I give half of my income to the parish. I expect the honoring of commitments for those who call Saint Miriam home. While I do not expect that you will sacrifice as much as I do, I do expect equal commitment to the care of this parish. When you fail to keep your promises, fail to show up to help, fail to give to support us, someone else must pick up that promise, fill in, or dig deeper. That is not only unfair, it is not Christian.

At the core of Francis’ spirituality was the belief, “My God loves me.” And so he reduced his prayer to “My God and my all.”  Therefore, I will look for you to attend Mass more regularly, honor your stewardship and care of this parish community on a regular basis, and love one another through the keeping of your commitments and promises to our building fund and one another and all who come to visit us. Why? Because as your pastor that is my job to remind you – and myself – when we are failing to honor God. We are better. We are Saint Miriam.