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Feast of the Holy Family.

Just before my ordination, I met with the pastor of Saint Catherine of Siena in Norwood where I would say my first Mass. He gave me some valuable advice that I would like to share with you. He said, “When I was first made pastor I wanted to make a difference.  I saw that the pews looked a bit tired and needed to be freshened up with a coat of varnish.  To save the parish money, I bought a few gallons of spar varnish, I got some volunteers and together we got the job done.  Now, every professional knows that you can’t varnish over old shellac because it will not stick properly. About a month later, everyone left the church with varnish chips all over their… clothes.  It was a disaster,” he reported.  “We had to hire professionals to sand the pews and re-varnish them.  That same week, the sound system in the hall failed. That was not so bad, but it happened in the middle of bingo.  Naturally, that was my fault. The next week the boiler stopped working on the coldest day of the year and it was Sunday morning. My whole life was solving problems. My days were spent worrying about, listening to, and trying to resolve problems.  The church was no longer a source of joy. It was a source of problems. I had forgotten what the church represented: the presence of God.” The church will always be a source of joy if I remember that. It is not about the problems; it is about who you are with.

The angel Gabriel told Mary that she would give birth to the Savior of the world. That is the greatest news the world ever received. Immediately after the angel left there were problems. First, she was pregnant out of wedlock. There was talk of divorce. They went to Bethlehem to have the baby and there was no place for them. After the birth, a powerful king wanted to have her child killed so they had to flee to Egypt for an undetermined period of time. All that time Mary and Joseph were with God. It shows the world that it is not about the problems, it is about who you are with.

When my mother was in a nursing home for rehabilitation, I took my mother Christmas shopping for the first time in three years.  As you may know, she is in a nursing home and has been very sick.  Anyway, we got the wheelchair in the car and headed out.  For some reason, there was a traffic jam on Route 1 and it took us about an hour to get to the mall.  To my horror, I discovered that one of the stores had a “50% off” sale. There were no parking spaces, except at the other end of the lot.  Once inside, it was hard negotiating the many shoppers and lines of people with a wheelchair.  My mother couldn’t remember anyone’s sizes, and I was of no help.  I always manage to get in the wrong checkout line and the guy in front of me had half of Rhode Island in his shopping cart. Well, we finally made it back to the nursing home, and when I was about to say goodbye to my mother, I thought that she would say to me, “Never do that again. Never take me shopping before Christmas. It is a bad idea. She didn’t say that. She said, “Peter, I had a wonderful time.” Yes, there were problems but for Mom, it was not about the problems; it is about who you are with.

You could be one of the Israelites in a desert for 40 years with no food or water, or Gideon who had a million and one shot at defeating the enemy; or you could be David standing in front of Goliath. Always remember, it is not about the problems; it is about who you are with.

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