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I am a religious in the congregation of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary. We have houses in nine countries. One man oversees and manages all of this: the Rector Major. His name is Fr. David Nicgorski. Before he became a priest, before he entered the seminary, before he even thought about becoming a priest, he invited me to dinner. When I got to his home, he had a friend. I saw his face, heard his speech and recognized that he was different; he was handicapped. He stayed for dinner with me and Dave. Dave’s mom cooked Buffalo wings that night. They were dripping in a hot sauce. I never had them before, and I was not used to the strong spices. So I dipped the wings in a blue cheese dressing to cool them down. It was a messy job. There was sauce dripping all over me. I looked up and Dave’s friend and suddenly he didn’t look different, he was a mess like me. We started to laugh, take pictures, and high-five. After a few wings, I saw his friend in a different light. He was the nicest, kindest, humblest, fun person I have ever had the honor to meet. Still today, he visits, and he is a celebrity. Everyone is drawn to him. He wins people over, not because of his outward appearance, not because of his shell, but because of the treasure inside the shell.
St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, and he told them that they were earthen vessels. Today he would call us Tupperware. In this cheap, plastic container there is a treasure that transforms us into who we are and what we believe.
There was an unruly man who came into the church and started to bother the worshippers. I tried to talk to him, but he was belligerent and uncooperative. My only option was to call the police. It was right about the time when all riots and protests against police brutality were front and center in the news cycle. Two officers came in, and they were very nice, professional, and they assured me that they would get the man some help. When they left, I thought, “I am really glad they woke up today and put on their uniform despite the negativity that is surrounding them these days.” They serve because they believe in what they do. There is something special inside of them.
One Saturday morning my mother asked me to go shopping with her. In the car, she said, “You have been very quiet lately. You seem withdrawn, isolated, and distant. You used to be so happy around the house, always helping me out with the chores and having fun with your brothers. Where did the old Peter go? I want him back.” I leveled with her and told her that my friend in school betrayed me and embarrassed me in front of all my other friends. She said, “Do you know what your friend is doing now? He is probably at the mall eating pizza and having a good time, while you are here being miserable.” Then she gave me this advice. “Peter, don’t let anyone rob you of your good stuff. Do not let anyone take away the things that make you great because your good stuff has a big impact wherever go.”
In the Gospel, it says that after Jesus spoke, many disciples left the Lord and no longer followed him. Think about that for a moment. It must have been very disheartening for Peter to see his friends go away. They were classmates in the school of Jesus. Jesus turned and asked him if he wanted to leave with them. Peter said, “Lord where are we to go, you have the words of everlasting life.” In other words, “Your words are a treasure, they transform me, and they define who I am and what I am all about. No one can ever take that from me.”
Sometimes bad things happen. We may have to have a bad boss, bad leaders, bad decisions by others, bad people, bad news, and bad publicity that makes us feel discouraged or downcast. Remember that your treasure is never outside of you, it is inside and no one can ever take it away from you.Back to All Homilies