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Two priests were in a room in the back of the chancery in Poland, and they couldn’t decide where to assign one of their confreres. He had a weak voice, was sick all the time, and was not a good preacher. None of the pastors wanted him as an associate. They decided to sent him over to the steelworker’s union to celebrate Mass there. He received the assignment that no one else wanted. You can picture this weak, feeble, soft-spoken priest addressing all these strong, no-nonsense ironworkers. It seemed like a complete miss-match. However, something happened. The priest stood in front of the ironworkers and proclaimed to them, “I know you are discouraged and feel downcast because of the communist rule. But remember this–you are Polish Catholics. No one can ever take that away from you. Do not let the communists, or anyone, rob you of the good things you gain with Christ. Never forget who you are and what you are called to be.” The ironworkers felt a bond among themselves, and they called it “solidarity.” Soon the enthusiasm spread throughout the nation. Not long after that, the whole world was watching. Next, the iron curtain came down, and communism fell in Eastern Europe. I recall watching TV and seeing the Berlin Wall coming down. The whole world was in awe. I remember thinking, “How did this all come about?” I think the whole world was asking the same question. Yet if you follow the dominos back—national unity, ironworkers united, ironworkers inspired by a priest—if you go back to the place where it all began, we find ourselves in the back room of the chancery where two priests are asking the question,” What are we going to do with this loser?” Grace was born in that moment of darkness.
Peter denied the Lord three times. Then, he went to Galilee and fished. It was amazing that a professional fisherman with a crew of six could not catch a single fish. Peter encountered a block of time in his life when he couldn’t do anything right. But God said, “I will take this loser and change the world.” Grace was born in that bleak moment.
You remember the Acts of the Apostles. The book begins with the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven. Then the Apostles receive the Holy Spirit and they begin to “act” just as Jesus had acted. They drew large crowds, gave inspiring speeches, and cured all who approached them. It is almost as if we didn’t need Jesus anymore because the disciples were so good at imitating their Lord. Yet, in chapter 9, Jesus came back to visit Paul. We are, naturally all very happy to see Jesus once again, although the conversation is extremely brief. Why did Jesus return when he had plenty of faithful apostles and disciples who were more than successful at their mission? The reason? Paul was on the wrong side of God. He was a loser.
I do not know much about politics. I am not good at sports. I am not a scientist. I can’t even turn on the TV in our house. There are five remotes with dozens of buttons on each of them. The last time I made an attempt, someone asked me, “What are you doing? That is for the AC.” Yet, I do know something about the first century after years of study. I know that if God did not say, “I will team up with this loser, Peter, we would not be here today, and the Christ story would have faded out like an outdated Agatha Christy novel.
After the Patriots won the Super Bowl, Bill Belichick appeared as a guest on David Letterman’s Late Night Show. Letterman asked Bill, “When did you know during the regular season that your team was going to the Super Bowl? Belichick answered “During the fourth quarter of the Kansas City game. We knew we were going to lose, but the players never gave up. They played like they were going to win. That is when I knew.
We cannot win every time. This means then, at times, we will lose. Losing is really the most important time of our lives because how we deal with our loss is what counts. Remember this, the darkest hour can be the beginning of our finest moment.Back to All Homilies