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'We need you'

Oct. 18, 2017

Bishop LaValley’s homily for the annual Blue Mass at St. Patrick’s Church, Watertown  Oct. 1

Blue Mass

In our second reading, St. Paul tells the people of Philippi: “humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others.”
Boy, that’s not always easy, is it?

I suspect if more of us had that really heroic Christian philosophy of life, the jobs of those charged with public safety and law enforcement would be a whole lot easier and safer.       

But, because the world in which we live finds evil lurking in too many places, because sometimes we find it easier to use and take advantage of our neighbor than humbly consider their interests, because, too often, we just plain can’t seem to get along, we place you, the women and men in blue who we honor today, in stress-filled, often dangerous situations.

In our fractured society, in many ways, we expect you to keep us from falling apart.  Too many times, we need you to protect us from ourselves.

We need you because sometimes the way we treat our neighbor indicates that we have fallen from the path of Jesus.

We need you because, by and large, we mean well, but our actions don’t always reflect such good intentions, like that one son in today’s Gospel. 

We need you because things happen:  hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, fires and we are not self-sufficient. 
We need you because too many people are overtaken by evil and we are scared and fearful for ourselves and for our loved ones.

As you place yourself, time and again, in harm’s way, you place the interests of others over your own.  Unless one were to walk i your shoes, we can’t pretend to know the great stress you must endure because of that.

As I was reading an inspiring reflection of a 30-year retired veteran of one of our police departments, I was reminded that as you meet trauma and crisis on a regular basis, as you confront a wide spectrum of evil behaviors in our prisons, jails, streets, schools, homes and workplaces, there is a personal cost that you and your families pay. 

Too often, we forget the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual toll on you and your loved ones.  For such disregard and insensitivity on our part, we express our sincere regret.

You are on the front lines, often in crisis situations, as you face the consequences of what society is unable or unwilling to address.  Sometimes we expect you to accomplish super-human feats in the face of our less-than-human behavior.

Our Gospel story today presents us with another reason why we rely on your sacrifice and bravery:  And then they asked, “Which of the two did the father’s will?”  They answered correctly, “The first son.”  Jesus doesn’t put on this little quiz to see how clever his listeners are.  He is making a crucial point about their relationship with God. 

By means of His little parable, He is telling them that in the matter of obedience to God’s will, it is better by far to move from bad intentions to good positive action than to remain locked into good intentions and no action.  I wonder how many of you, in your law enforcement roles have heard “I didn’t mean to do this or that.”  We claim that our intentions are always noble.  Maybe, just maybe sometimes what we really intended was not to get caught. 

We all stumble, we slip, we waffle, we fail…But our loving Father is always there, ready to pick us up if we only make an honest effort to repent—to change and live in harmony with His rule. 

Repentance takes us beyond good intentions.  Repentance is the process of actually becoming the kind of person God wills us to be.  God doesn’t write anybody off when it comes to the possibility of changing, of moving from the good intention mode to the good behavior.  That’s why it’s so important that we never, never give up on anyone.

On behalf of the Church of Ogdensburg, extending from Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Herkimer, Lewis, St. Lawrence, to here in Jefferson County, I want to thank you for accepting the awesome responsibility of providing protection and safety for all who call our North Country, ‘home.’  It is with much personal sacrifice, as well as that of your loved ones, that you accept this charge.

Please know of our ongoing strong support for you as we implore God to keep you safe from harm.  You have our trust and respect.  We commend you as peacemakers and sisters and brothers in Christ.  We ask God to bless all of you who wear the uniform in service to your communities.

I also want to ask a special blessing upon your families today, because it’s your spouses, children, and parents who daily pray for your safety while you are at work, and who love and support you at the end of the day when your duty is done. 

Finally let us remember all those who have fallen in the line of duty, who never failed in their generous service, even when it meant the giving of their very lives.  Let us give thanks to God for the witness they left us, a witness of sacrifice, and a witness to the dignity and honor of their vocation of service. God bless you and your families for your selfless service.

Blue Mass

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