Sunday, September 6, 2015

Frisbee, Spitting, Loneliness, And Jesus

Our Ultimate Frisbee Night During First Week
There are a host of questions that every priest gets asked on a regular basis. If I go to a wedding reception, some person who is trying to make conversation but doesn't know exactly what to say to a priest might ask, "So uhm, how's the Pope?"  "Oh, he's good, I guess," I will reply.  "Do you have meetings with him and stuff?" "Well, not too regularly."  

But, there are more profound questions that people ask. One question that comes my way fairly regularly is, "Father, are you lonely?" I suppose in some way people ask that question because they presume celibacy must be lonely. But, I think they ask that question for a far more profound reason. I think that all of us have a profound existential fear of loneliness. They aren't just concerned with my well-being when they ask that question. They are communicating their own profound fear of loneliness.  I often answer that question by telling people that some of the loneliest people I've ever met wake up every day laying next to another person. Loneliness and isolation are something that shake the human person.

Today in the Gospel, we heard about a man who suffered from deafness and a speech impediment. In a very real way, he was alone. He could not hear the communication of others and he was unable to communicate his interior life to them. What a great suffering that must have been for him. In fact, maybe he never felt more alone than when he was with others. The presence of others could make him feel even more isolated and closed in. Haven't we all experienced this at one time or another? We can be among others and feel alone?

The people who loved this man brought him to Jesus. Now this Gospel has always grossed me out a bit. Jesus sticks his fingers into the man's ears and spits and touches the man's tongue.  Gross! Jesus could have healed him with just a word, but he sticks his fingers into his ears and touches his tongue. Why? 

Don't Ask
So often, we think of God as being "way out there up in the clouds." We are down here and he's up there. We don't really know him and he's too far away from us to really understand us. We feel isolated and alone. But God sends us his Son, so that he can be close to us. He touches us precisely where we are weak. He doesn't float up in the sky looking down and wondering how his friends are in that far off place called earth. He draws near to us and touches us. In Jesus, God draws close to us and frees us from what isolates us.

This past week at the Catholic Center, I've really been moved by our Catholic Community. Tonight at Mass, so many people coming in told me that they were Freshmen. Welcome! It is so great to have you here. It was great this week to have so many Catholic students coming to our First Week events. We've played Ultimate Frisbee together, eaten meals together, conversed with one another, walked around Boston together, played games etc. And here we are at Mass together.

St. Theresa of Avila has a beautiful prayer where she says:

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

This Catholic Community is given to us as a gift from God. We help one another to conquer that fear that affects all of us: this existential loneliness, this sense that we are alone. I want you to know that this place is here for you. If ever during your time at BU you feel the weight of loneliness, if ever you feel distant from others or from God, remember that this place is yours. We are given to one another as a sign of God's nearness. We are not alone.

Now, I'm not recommending that we go around sticking our fingers in each others ears or spitting at each other! But, our closeness to one another reminds us that God has drawn near to us and dwells among us. We are not alone. Even right now, as I look at all of you here at Mass, I'm moved by your witness. You remind me that God is close. I thank you for your witness. I was also moved this week by the way that so many people at our Catholic Center reached out to meet new students and invite them. It was really an awesome thing to witness.

As we live this year together, let's help one another. Everyone experiences--each in his or her own way--this existential loneliness. If you ever find yourself confronted by this reality, draw closer to the Catholic Community here. That's why we are here. Allow Jesus to touch you. And, let's be attentive to others who are also experiencing this loneliness. Let's remember that Christ has no body but yours. Draw close to those who feel crushed and isolated. 

The man in today's Gospel must have experienced such incredible joy and freedom in that moment. He became free to know others and to express himself. This is what our Catholic Community is for each of us. It is an opportunity to experience communion and love and to share communion and love with others. Let's live this year together and be signs to one another of God's closeness. Christ has no body but yours.


  1. Pope Francis: “What I hope for from youth is for you all not to walk alone in life. Life is very difficult. It’s difficult to walk alone. You get lost. You get confused. You can find the wrong path or you can be walking around in circles, in a maze, or worst, you can stop because you get tired of walking in life. Always walk hand-in-hand with someone who loves you, someone who gives you tenderness.”