The people of North Java and surrounding towns are most resilient. On a freezing two degree Sunday morning, sixty folks showed up to celebrate their feast day as Holy Family. The gospel was not just the story of Joseph and Mary and Anna and Simeon. It is the story about our founding bishop whom I like to dedicate the New Year to Bishop Peplowski.
Last Wednesday, I drove to Orchard Park to visit our Bishop Peplowski. I met him at the door as his van was returning from a doctor visit. Bundled up from the cold and worn out from his treatments, he was surprised as I wheeled him to his room. Helping taking off his coat, he shared that the doctors told him that his has cancer and started treatment at Roswell Park. In addition, he has dialysis five days a week but he carries on with courage and faith because he knows that God is taking care of him at this stage in his life.
I shared photos of the parish kids bringing toys to St. Nicholas to donate to the poor children in the county. A week later these same kids dressed as shepherds and angels put on a Nativity Play that inspired their moms and dads and grandparents to feel the Spirit of Christmas. Finally, the kids with wide smiles were blowing out the candles on a Jesus Birthday “cupcake.” This never would be happening without the inspiration, support and encouragement of this bishop who brought hope to this farming community to reborn their closed catholic parish. Now, they are preparing for four baptisms in 2018
Like Simeon in the gospel, this bishop has had his struggles, doubts, but searched and prayed for some sign of God’s presence.
A sign that God really does care, that behind all this senseless suffering and pain in the world, there is a larger purpose. He did not want to die any more than we do before he saw a sign, some hope some glimpse of a divine face. The message of the gospel is that he finally did receive a sign and he spoke this response: "Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation.” Luke writes that all of us Simeons will someday sing this song.
I love this gospel because it’s your story and it’s mine and the story of Bishop Peplowski. It gives hope to all. to all Simeons who wonder where is God in the tragedies and unfairness of life. To all people comes this word of the Lord. God will have the last word, not we humans. God will reward faithfulness. Most important, God will honor his promises, those who stay true will look upon his face of the Lord one day. We will sing again. Our life will supply the melody the gospel has already supplied the words: ‘Master, now your dismissing your servant in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation, a light for revelation for the Gentiles and for glory for your people Israel.”
Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends in this New Year and ask that you bless Bishop Peplowski who awaits his glory for his lifetime of dedicated service to you and all your children.