ONE OF MANY
The title of my homily for this Sixth Day in the Octave of Christmas is, “Anna: One of Many.”
When I read today’s gospel – Luke 2: 36-40 – I think of the thousands and thousands of little old ladies I’ve spotted in a thousand churches.
I’ve seen them sitting quietly in the back of a church – behind a pole off to the side in the middle of a church – or kneeling at the communion rail up front.
Praying…. They are praying.
Hoping …. They are hoping.
Begging …. They are begging God for help.
So this gospel story of Anna is one of many stories – of little old ladies – who have found time and place to pray in churches, temples, mosques, shrines, holy places – all through the years.
What a documentary could be made – if documentary makers - just went into random churches and holy places on the planet – and simply interviewed these women of prayer – finding out what’s going on inside their mind at that moment. What are you doing? Whom are you praying for?
If Anna was asked she would answer that she was praying for the Messiah, the Savior, waiting for the Redeemer, hoping for someone to come and tell us how to live life to the full – how to love one another – how to be a peacemaker – how to know our God.
ALL MOTHERS HERE
All mothers here – you know the scenario. You have dropped into your church. You’re sitting in your favorite place of prayer – to pray for one or two or more of your children. You’ve knelt there, you’ve sat there, you’ve made the stations of the cross there – because you’re kids and you were making the way of the cross out there in the streets of your life.
Alcoholism, drugs, dating the wrong person, a shaky marriage, abuse, hurts, people not talking to people, kids out of work, kids in Afghanistan, cancer, strokes, lupus, in jail, what have you.
A PRO ATHLETE
I worked 14 years of my life in 2 different retreat houses – 7 years in each.
Every year on this one weekend a big guy – a former pro football player - would sit in the back row of our chapel – in the closest seat to the backdoor on the right aisle. No matter how many people were in the chapel for a talk or for a mass – he would sit in that same seat – sometimes nobody in any row or bench near him.
Once he said to me, “I’m wondering if you’re wondering why I’m sitting in the back corner?”
I said, “No.”
“Well,” he said, “I’ll tell you. I had dropped out of the church for at least 19 years. In our church back home, that’s the spot my mom always half knelt and half sat for all those years praying for me to come back to church.”
“It worked.” He said. “Here I am praying for her and thanking her in heaven for praying for me all through the years.”
If we made a film documentary of little old ladies in dark old churches – we would hear stories like that.
It was my first assignment.
A good friend of mine – named Tessie – long dead now – used to sit in the third last row of our church – Most Holy Redeemer – Lower East Side – New York City - every afternoon from 3 to 4. You couldn’t see her – she was hiding in front of a big church pillar in the back of the church – not far from our O.L.P.H. shrine – which was in the back. I noticed her husband Frank came into church in the morning – and said his prayers.
Tessie also used to be the money counter for Bingo every Wednesday night.
Well, one Wednesday just before Bingo started, Tessie said to me, “I got a great story for you.”
“I’m in church this afternoon – in the dark – near the back – and I hear the door open. I hear someone go over to Mary’s shrine – and I hear Father Leo starting to pray out loud. Obviously, he didn’t know I was there – and I laid low. Well, I hear him tell the Blessed Mother the following. ‘Thank you Mary. Thank You God, I’m just coming back from the urologist. I can pee like a little boy again.”
That moment happened in 1968 – I can still remember it.
I’d love it if a moment like that would be captured in a documentary about little old ladies in churches – and what’s going on in their minds and hearts.
I’m sure Luke put this story in his Gospel, because in his travels, he saw lots of ladies like Anna – sitting, standing, kneeling there in prayer.
He gave Anna praise – today let’s praise our moms and all those Little Old Ladies who showed us the importance of praying for others – especially the children of our world. Amen.