Friday – Feast of St. Martha, Mary and Lazarus     

Gospel – John 11:19-27, Luke 10:38-42

Family Matters

The Holy Family, Nazareth

You will pardon me if I have to stop and think what day this is!  The past 10 days have been a bit of a blur!  Last Wednesday I headed to Louisiana for a 4-day Tekakwitha Conference, an annual gathering of Native Catholic communities in the US and Canada.  It was the first opportunity to gather in person in the past 3 years.  Needless to say it was a wonderful chance to reconnect with old friends and to forge new bonds for the future.

We returned from the conference late Sunday night, just before midnight.  And I was right back to O’Hare 5 hours later to fly out to Edmonton Alberta to attend Pope Francis’ Mass of Healing and Reconciliation for the Native Peoples over the tragedy of the Residential Schools.  And then I returned home late Wednesday.  Needless to say, I am glad I won’t have to see another airport or security or customs checkpoint in the near future.

But while there were workshops and meetings and liturgies at each location, I am reminded that, in the end, we were gathering as a family.  I gathered with my native family and then in Edmonton with thousands of my religious and spiritual family. 

And I think that is what today is all about!  We celebrate today the Feast of Sts. Martha, Mary and Lazarus – a family! We hear in today’s Gospel the story of the death of Lazarus and the heart-wrenching emotions of his sisters Mary and Martha.  Martha talks with Jesus; Mary is so distraught that she can’t even leave her home.  It was only 2 Sundays ago that we heard the story of the 2 sisters hosting a dinner for Jesus and it did not go well.  Martha is upset that Mary spends her time listening to Jesus and never lifting a finger to help Martha prepare the meal.  And then Jesus has to remind Martha that His message is ultimately more important than a simple meal.

It is a reminder to all of us that all of these interactions are what family is all about – moments of joy and peace, moments of sadness and loss and yes even moments of anger and hurt.  We don’t always get along, we fight and we argue.  But most of all and through it all – we comfort each other!  We support each other!  We love each other!

When I was at the Kateri Tekakwitha Conference, I picked up lunch at the hotel café.  The high school girl behind the counter was completely on her own.  She did everything – she took orders, prepped and cooked the meals, served them, ran the cash register and she bused tables.  And throughout my lunch, I watched her manage that heavy load with such grace and calmness, never getting frazzled or upset with customers who complained about the wait.  When I finished my lunch, I made a point to go up to the counter, give her a big tip and an even bigger thank you for all that she was tasked to do.  You should have seen the smile on her face – she was literally beaming!

When we were leaving for the Papal Mass on Wednesday, I found myself on the elevator with a Native elder.  I asked if he was going to the Mass and his response was brief and heartfelt – Yes, unfortunately!  We proceeded to have a long conversation about the abuse and pain that tens of thousands of Native children experienced in the Residential schools in Canada and US. Thousands of them died in those schools and we are continuing to find the forgotten graves of thousands of those children.  His hurt and anger were evident not only in his words but in his eyes and his willingness to share his pain.

I think today’s Gospel and both of those encounters serve as a reminder that ‘family’ goes way beyond blood and marriage.  That we all share pain and joy, smiles and tears!  That we are all brothers and sisters in faith and in reality!  That we are all one family!  Saying a simple thank you to someone or having a conversation with another may not seem all that important until you realize the effect it has when we come to the realization that we are all family!

It reminds me of the lyrics of a song I’ve kind of been playing nonstop lately!

We don't need to be related to relate
We don't need to share genes or a surname
You are, you are
My chosen, chosen family
So what if we don't look thе same?
We’ve been going through the samе thing, the same pain

You are, you are
My chosen, chosen family

So let me make this shameless plug for 2 members of my personal family – Ginger’s parents, Bob and Shirley Houren, who today celebrate their 72nd wedding anniversary   Parents who have always treated me as a son and not an in-law. Parents who chose me as their son the moment Ginger and I chose each other! Parents who love and teach and guide and counsel!  Parents who provide an example of patience (especially with my sense of humor) and forgiveness!  Parents who raise their daughter and this son not only by their words and their example but especially their love!

Parents like God the Father who knows our struggles and our successes, our highs and our lows, our failings and our recovery.  God chose each and every one of us as His Family!  We are all His Chosen Family!


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