March 2, 2009
Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18 (Act with honesty, integrity, and compassion)
Psalm 19:8, 9, 10, 15 (Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life)
Matthew 25:31-46 (Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto Me)
(Note: The word "Lord" occurs eighteen times in today's first two readings, but not once in the Gospel)
Sometimes, just the slightest bit of unexpected events, good or bad, is enough to throw you off your game.
Maybe it was something in the cold, last-of-February air that kept me from focus. Maybe it's my age. I rather doubt it, though.
Surprise #1: I finally get my account set up for the electronic filing of my income tax return. I'd been trying since Wednesday, and kept getting an 'unable to process, try again later' message. I finally qualify for free electronic filing and wanted to take advantage of it. The problem: the thing at the end of a sentence or abbreviation. Period. Nothing in the instructions said that the security question answer couldn't contain special characters!
Surprise #2: I received my service check; I wasn't expecting it for at least a week and was figuring it would be two. (I am compensated at one church for serving as a cantor, and the checks are compiled monthly.)
Surprises #3 & #4: During the Saturday evening Mass, the pastor announces that he went to the diocesan bishop to remind him that he is near his 70th birthday (apparently 70 is the age of retirement in this diocese), and was starting the process of preparing for retirement. Only that the bishop isn't ready to let him go yet - there are at least 15 other priests ahead of him, some in poor health. So the pastor's not retiring, and will remain in the parish he's managed for 14 years now "for awhile longer."
Wow! I wouldn't have taken the pastor for being 70 - I was guessing he was much closer to 60, and possibly on the younger side. I had known that he was getting close to potential replacement, but I figured that he would be assigned to another parish. Either way, this is the place where I'm compensated, and a change at the top would threaten to end that.
Now before I go further, I need to explain that compensation of pastoral musicians is a relatively new thing and not all that common. It was something I fell into eight years ago, at a time when my wife and I were concerned over making sure we didn't run into too much month at the end of the money. It was relatively easy as well, and the time commitment was manageable, so I accepted the offer.
A lot has happened in these eight years. good and not-so-good; so when I first heard that the time for decisions to be made regarding the pastor was coming up, I was trying to figure out what I would do. I was almost certain he would be replaced. Then there was the potential "honeymoon" period a new pastor would have. Presumably a new pastor wouldn't change anything for the first year of his term. Maybe. I've been around long enough to know that if the new guy's ambitious or observant enough, change can take place within that first year.
So when I heard that the pastor isn't retiring anytime soon, I wasn't sure what to think. At best it's now down to a year-to-year basis, as long as he remains in good health. It could go potentially as much as five years (the mandatory retirement age for American Catholic bishops).
There's a lot more to add to this, but I'm not quite ready to present it. I will describe it in due time, but not just yet.
What did I do? I told him this morning the truth - that I didn't take him for being near 70, more like near 60; and I will pray for his continued good health. He smiled.
I also learned Saturday night (even with my self-imposed news moratorium) of the death of legendary radio commentator Paul Harvey, at age 90. For a long time I'd go out of my way to catch his three-times daily broadcasts with his unique style and manner of presenting all kinds of news stories with just a touch of analysis. I knew his son had pretty much taken on the daily broadcasts over the last year, and I hope that continues. Paul will be missed by his counterparts in the media. His was an example few accomplish.
The coming week at work will be busy. A co-worker I assist is taking vacation, and I do some covering of her work when she's away. That itself will keep me hopping. How many times will I call on the Lord, and how many will be in earnest? I'll try and keep track.