St. Paul has wonderful words as we celebrate our parish picnic and memorial dedication to Sister Barbara. He says to allow the Holy Spirit to fill us - so we can give thanks always and for everything. What does that mean? Especially when so many bad things happen, how can we always thank God?
Well, when we began the homily series on Ephesians we saw that God predestines us according to his eternal plan. We of course have free will and each one has to make a decision. Nevertheless, to achieve his will God takes into account even our sins and failures. On account of his great mercy we thank God for everything including the tragedies and contradictions we experience.
This week we've felt shame, anger and sadness with all the news about the clerical abuse scandal. We pray for victims. You should know we have worked hard to protect children. In the Archdiocese of Seattle we have not had a new case since 1988. We have given lots of time and energy to the safe environment program for children, youth and vulnerable adults. Still, we feel shame for all the horrible things that have happened - and we ask God's help to not despair but to turn to him. And we each have individual suffering and family suffering and we ask how we can thank God always and in everything.
Sister Barbara used to say, "God is good; he is so very good." We'll see those words when we dedicate her memorial. Sister Barbara saw plenty of ugliness - especially in domestic violence visits she made as police and fire chaplain. It's not that she didn't feel outrage, yet she focused on the cross, the sufferings of Jesus on our behalf. She made an act of trust in Jesus, in the ultimate goodness of the Father.
And she had a secret. Every morning she spent time with Jesus present in the Eucharist. As Jesus says today, "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man" - Jesus himself - and drink his blood you do not have life within you." There's a prayer that says, "Blood of Christ, inebriate me." Wine - in moderation - can gladden the heart. The Blood of Jesus brings joy that endures.
Sister Barbara received the Body and Blood of Jesus and she spent time before him, his true presence in the tabernacle. She turned to Jesus like a sunflower to the sun. She confidently asked for little things - like finding a parking space - and for big things - like finding my lost puppy! She may still be interceding for us, helping us find our way and bringing us back to God.
Next Sunday we have the final homily of this seven week series. It all leads to Jesus - the Bridegroom - and his bride the Church. Sister Barbara represented that reality when she received the veil of a religious sister.
Today we ask her to help us thank God always and for everything. God is good; he is so very good. Amen.