SIXTEENTH ORDINARY SUNDAY
Probably all of us here at some time or other have had the experience of being left out! Exclusion, rejection can hurt us deeply, even leave scars. That is why Paul's words today are so important and so welcome to us all: In Christ Jesus you who were once far off have become near by the blood of Christ! Paul is writing to gentiles who are thus not Jews, not part of God's revelation to His chosen people. He is telling them that they now belong because Jesus is our peace who made Jews and gentiles one and broke down the dividing wall through his flesh. How did he do that? How did he reconcile all humankind? Through the cross! He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who are near, for through him we all have access in the one Spirit to the Father! We belong because Jesus Christ has done this making us one body in Him who is the savior of the world and the redeemer of all humankind.
That is why we are here today: to worship God Father, Son and Holy Spirit: to give thanks for 100 years of this faith community here in Baldwin. St Christopher Parish has been for 100 years a place of faith and hope and love; for 100 years the Eucharist has been celebrated here Sunday after Sunday. For 100 years, you the faithful have rejoiced with the priests sent to you by successive bishops, with the Sisters of St Joseph who came to the parish and taught in the school and witnessed their love by their lives, all of you together who yourselves are living stones, the very Body of Jesus Christ!
Way back this little corner of Long island came alive by the LIRR and in 1912 Bishop McDonnell of Brooklyn wisely spent $5,000 to buy property for a Church here in Baldwin. 100 years ago Baldwin went from mission of Freeport to parish of St Christopher with Fr McGoldrick as pastor. By 1918 a beautiful first church opened on the corner of Gale and Merrick Rd. Your pastor responded to the growth of the parish by buying parcels of land that would become the school and the first convent for the Sisters of St. Joseph whose spirit animates this parish even to today! Fr John Mahon came to you with the spirit of a missionary and had this Church become the first Shrine of St Christopher in our country. He began what we continue today: the blessing of vehicles. (I hope there are not 7000 out there today as there were in 1938.)
In 1935 Fr Buckley became your third pastor. The school flourished. CCD grew. The Sisters taught in both as you all prayed for the servicemen during WWII. When Fr Gorman became pastor in 1946 he had three curates to assist him. He could modestly be called a man of action in many ways including the building of the new convent, the addition to the school and in 1959 work began on this beautiful parish Church which all of us, including myself, have found to be an inspiring House of God and spiritual home for all of you. Msgr. Lawlor came as the fifth pastor and led you through all the changes of the Vatican Council and encouraged you to develop in many ways especially in communications and concern for youth, the latter becoming the CYO program so well known here. Fr Dennis Whelan succeeded him to be followed by Msgr. John Bennett. Msgr Bennett brought his vast experience in the Diocese and his many pastoral skills to a parish that seemed simply to grow and expand, celebrating faith and celebrating life through so many apostolic and social activities that kept the faith community together. In 2005 I transferred Msgr. Bennett to St Patrick Huntington and sent to you Msgr Steve Camp as the eighth pastor. In pastoral zeal and administrative skills, care for people and priestly spirit founded in his love of Christ, he is an outstanding pastor who has served you so well. Msgr Camp. Thank you.
The history of the parish records much more including the two bishops of Brooklyn and three of RVC who cared for this parish and sent these priests to you. But a parish is not priests, deacons and sisters. It is you the faithful who are the living stones building up a spiritual house. May I ask you: How many of you were baptized here? Made First Communion here? Confirmation here? Married here? Ordained priest or deacon from here?
In the gospel today, Jesus had sent out his first apostles. Not apostles but disciples sent with a special mandate: Lay persons who came back rejoicing in how they had cured disease, healed hearts and taught the people thirsting to know God's love in their lives. You are those disciples today, all of you who have become one body through the blood of the Cross by which Christ has made us all one. What beautiful words Mark uses today to describe that love of Jesus for us all. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them for they were like sheep without a shepherd and he began to teach them many things.
That Jesus, the true Shepherd, always looks on us with his love, teaches us through His Church, your pastors united to your bishop. He calls you today to give thanks for those rivers of grace that have poured into your hearts by the gifts of the Holy Spirit so present these past 100 years and ever present today among you, in you, for you and for the world.
He has given you so much. He has given you himself and he continues to do so through the sacraments and especially in this Eucharist we celebrate today. Yes! Here no one is excluded! We are all MADE one in Him. Yes we ARE all one in Him. And now he sends us, as he did those first apostles; he sends us to live his life, worship him with one heart and one faith and witness him by deeds of life and love that proclaims here in Baldwin and in every portion of our lives. HE IS OUR PEACE! HE IS OUR LORD! HE IS THE SAVIOR OF THE WORLD!