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‘Lessons learned, blessings received’

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

October 19, 2022

Editor’s Note: The following is Bishop Terry R. LaValley’s homily for diocesan Superintendent’s Day, a gathering of Catholic School teachers and administrators held Oct. 14 in Lake Placid.

In our first reading today, St. Paul reminds the people of Ephesus that in Christ, we were chosen, anointed with God’s Spirit in baptism, to praise God. At that sacramental moment of a real encounter with the divine, either we, or our Godparents on our behalf, accepted the invitation to become a child of God. That response was affirmed at our Confirmation. The Psalmist today chants: Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be His own. Yes, we are blessed because we have been chosen and have accepted the invitation to be God’s own.

Jesus, in Luke’s Gospel, tells the troubled crowd, “Do not be afraid.” We are not alone. We have companions, one another, on life’s journey. Yes, you have been chosen, but know that even the hairs of your heads have all been counted. Your worth is incalculable. We sense our worth as we gaze at our crucified Savior stretched out on the Cross. We see His outstretched arms and are absorbed in the deep love reflected in His eyes. Yes--Believe and be not afraid!

Jesus used sparrows to show just how much God loves us. In His day there were so many of them that these birds could be sold in the market for almost nothing. There’s little meat on these small feathery flyers, but it didn’t matter. There were so many, and they would increase and multiply forever, or so it seemed. That’s why Jesus could say that the smallest sparrow is known and cared for by God. Similarly, there no such thing as an inconsequential person.

Personally, we know from our own classroom experience, there is no insignificant child unworthy of our attention and care.

God doesn’t forget us, but it’s very easy for us to forget others, especially the vulnerable, the unattractive, the repulsive whose habits drive others away. Yet these can be the very individuals who are crying out for recognition and love. They might be the sparrows we miss, but God knows, God cares, and God remembers.

Each of you has responded heroically to the Lord’s invitation to help form the precious treasure of our children during these most troubling of times. Your care and attention for each child entrusted to your care continues to be truly heroic. Thank you.

I’d like to take a few minutes as we begin this conference day and point out marks of spiritual wellness that surfaced during the uninvited intrusion of COVID into our lives. There have been lessons learned, blessings received, compliments of COVID-19.

LESSON ONE: There is but one God. Science is not perfect, and we should not expect it to be. Science does not have all the answers, nor will it…ever. So, we best not expect perfection from medicine or any science. Only God is perfect. THANK GOD ONLY GOD IS GOD!

LESSON TWO: Be grateful! There are so many people we take for granted, even take advantage of: our teachers, staff, administrators, health care professionals, emergency response personnel, parents, grandparents, spouses, children. We must learn to always be a grateful, not a hateful people because we really do rely on one another in so many ways. May we never take you for granted!

LESSON THREE: We have been gifted and we share these gifts selflessly. Among so many other gifts, I would mention: your creativity in the classroom and at home, your personal dedication, patience, endurance. Evidence of just plain love abounds in our schools. Even in the midst of such uncertainty and worries about your own families, you selflessly exude the joy of the Gospel. Thank you!

LESSON FOUR: We have witnessed personal sacrifice for the common good, as members of this family of faith…it’s who we are, it’s what we do. When one member of the Body is hurting, we all hurt; when one is blessed, we all celebrate. Because it helped others, we wore the annoying facial protection. Thank you!

LESSON FIVE: We have grown to a greater sensitivity to the pain and fear experienced by others. Fear is real. No one is immune from being afraid. Sensitivity even to the macho and the self-righteous who appear fearless among us is important. No one is invulnerable.

LESSON SIX: I must tend to my personal health. My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. I treat it with respect and work to stay healthy. COVID has reminded us of the sober reality that all human life is so very fragile and precious.

LESSON SEVEN: We are all connected, all children of God. When we disconnect or cut ourselves off from others, the entire Body suffers. We are like a solitary raft adrift in stormy waters. You work as members of a team, not as disconnected co-workers. Thank you! The bond of love and mutual respect is real.

It's so true…you continue to invite this bishop to reflect on the depth of his own faith and leadership, particularly when the going gets tough. It’s true…you inspire this priest, who was chosen to shepherd the folks who call the North Country “home,” to always embrace an attitude of gratitude.

It’s true…your example continues to ignite, to light a fire under your bishop to persevere in faithfulness with the joy of the Gospel. Thank you!

Lord, bless these people you have called to be Your own!



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