The Gospel of Luke and the “great reversal.”
Over the last several months, as we have listened to the Gospel of Luke, we have talked about Luke’s love for what is called “the great reversal.” If you remember, this is when Jesus tells a story or parable which has an ending that is totally different than we expect. Just think of the Prodigal Son, who selfishly leaves home and comes back and is treated with great love. Think of the dishonest Steward who is rewarded for his craftiness. Great armies, ready to battle, suddenly come to peace terms, a person in their pride moving to the head of the banquet table here on earth, then being asked to move to a lower place, so the cripple, poor, lame, and blind can be first at the banquet table in heaven.
Luke’s great reversal today is a contrast between a Pharisee and a Publican/Tax Collector. Although the Pharisee may seem self-righteous, he actually is a very holy man, based on the fact that he follows all of the laws. His problem is that he seems to be doing all of this without God’s help. The Publican seems downtrodden and knowledgeable of his sins. Even though his profession is considered wicked and he cheats others and is deceitful, he asks God for Mercy. In the end the great reversal is that the Pharisee, who follows all the laws will be humbled and the Publican will seem to be exalted, sinner though he is.
And now, another great reversal will take place here in our own backyard. I wanted to share some news about upcoming changes to the structure of the team of priests that serve Latah County. As many of you know, over the last thirty five years of my priesthood, I have been on a number of committees at the Diocese, serving four Bishops, in six parishes, two years in Rome for Canon Law studies and a year’s Sabbatical at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa, in the Maryknoll Missionary Studies program.
I am now the Judicial Vicar, who serves the Bishop when it comes to Judicial and Canonical issues in the Church. I am also Judicial Vicar for the Diocesan Office of Canonical Affairs and I am also on the Personnel Board. I was in Boise last week for our first Personnel meeting of the year. We will meet again in mid-January to discuss matters related to priests and deacons, those moving parishes, those being newly ordained, those requesting to move, and parishes that are listed as open due to people who will be retiring. First of all, last Spring, I asked Bishop Peter if he would honor my request for retirement and Bishop Peter has granted my request. So, on July 1, 2023, I will be retiring from active parish ministry. Whenever there is a transition in a parish people usually ask “What is going to happen to us – here at St. Mary’s.”
This evening (Saturday at 5:00 PM) Fr. Chase and I are sending out a letter via email and Flocknote, that partly addresses this question. When I left the meeting last week, St. Mary’s was declared as an “open parish,” meaning any priest in Idaho can apply to serve here. That decision is left up to the Bishop with the consultation of the Personnel Board. There are many other solutions to an open parish that tend to vary by the needs of the area and the Diocese. As it stands now, the plan for ministry in Latah County is to have the parishes of Latah County be served by one Pastor, who would be Rev. Chase Hasenoehrl, plus two other parochial vicars, who have not yet been chosen. With Fr. Loucks, this means we should have a total of four priests to serve our growing communities.
Each parish, St. Mary’s in Moscow, and St. Augustine’s at the University, will remain as independent parishes from each other, as well as Genesee and Potlatch. This consolidated pastoral team model is increasingly being implemented in many other parishes across the U.S. and is bearing fruit in those places. This new arrangement for priestly ministry in Latah County has been proposed to best serve the growth and unity of the towns, parishes, St. Mary’s Catholic School, and campus ministry at the University of Idaho.
So that Fr. Chase may have time to make further progress with his doctoral degree in theology at the University of Oxford, before receiving further pastoral responsibilities, he will be in Oxford from January 2023 to June 2023. A religious priest will be temporarily assigned to Moscow during that time to cover sacramental responsibilities at St. Augustine’s and St. Mary’s, in Potlatch. Fr. Tom Loucks, the local senior priest in residence, plans to continue to serve though this transition and beyond. During this time, I (Fr. Joe McDonald) will remain as your full Pastor at St. Mary’s in Moscow and St. Mary’s in Genesee until I retire on July 1, 2023. Given the ample time before the transition on July 1, 2023, there will be time for discernment regarding the details of the new arrangements. St. Paul, today, talks about his ministry and mission. He has kept the faith for thirty two years and now writes Timothy a second letter in which he no doubt believes that God will take care of the Church based on the prayers and actions of the people. Paul’s great reversal is that after thirty two years of being faithful to Christ, he is not rewarded in an earthly way, but is executed for his faith. The reward is not here on earth, but in Heaven. Sirach, the author of the first reading is a sage who lived in Jerusalem for over 25 years. His writings deal with a variety of subjects, such as the individual, the family, and the community. He speaks of the importance of friendship, education, poverty and wealth, laws, religious worship, and many other matters that reflect the religious and social customs of the time.
Today Sirach says God shows no partiality. He hears the prayers of the strong and the weak. The one who serves God is willingly heard, and God will not delay the answers to prayers offered by all. So, please pray for our Catholic community and its priests during this transition, that it may bear greater unity for God’s people and more joy for the Gospel.
Together in Christ, we remain grateful for you, for what we have and for what is to come.
Fr. Joe McDonald and Fr. Chase Hasenoehrl