23 Aug 2015
“‘As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.’” (Joshua 24:15) (+)
Today’s Lesson and Gospel are about the choices we make. Jesus has finished telling people to eat my flesh and drink my blood. It’s not hard to imagine people being a bit perplexed by these statements, and when Jesus doesn’t back away from them, we’re told in today’s Gospel that many of His followers turned away from Jesus. Choices have to be made to listen and follow Jesus even when it’s hard for us to appreciate what He’s saying to us. We are the ones who have to face the challenge of change, not Jesus. There’s also the story in the Old Testament of Joshua assembling the people of Israel in Shechem. There he offers them the choice to follow Yahweh their God or to follow whomever else they may choose, but he then adds, “‘As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.’” It’s all about choices this morning.
You’ve already made a choice by being here. There have to be other things you could be doing, but you have chosen to make time for Christ and church. I, for my part, am so glad that I have made the choice to attend nearly 30 consecutive Youth Retreats in our diocese. I wish, however, that I could convince more of our youth to make the same choice. Maybe you’ve had the chance to read Fr. Sen. Rob’s article about the Retreat that I shared with you via email. There’s nothing at Retreat beside an early morning rise and shine that should discourage any of our kids from attending.
I arrived on Sunday afternoon while many of you were still at our Chicken Barbecue in Hatfield. We start the Retreat with a flag raising ceremony. Those flags stay up until we bring them back down on Thursday as the very last thing we do. On Monday Allison Kostiuk came up for a one day visit. I always leave the Retreat on Monday to come back and do my FCAT editing. I was a little worried that I wouldn’t be around for Allie during her first Retreat. When I got back to Camp in the middle of the afternoon free time, however, she moving from here to there, this activity to that one. I don’t even know if she realized I was gone. She can’t wait to come back next year. Hailey Orloski came up for one day also, but for the 4-H counselors more than anything else. She made friends with them over the summer and wanted to see them again. But for whatever the reason, both had a great time.
On Tuesday I came home again for a short period for a funeral home service for Alec Kulessa. While I was gone, the kids performed a community project. We try to get them to think about giving back, about volunteering themselves for good causes. 4-H Camp Howe runs a great program during the summer for about 850 kids and they treat our church wonderfully every year at our Retreats. So we asked the Camp what they needed done. They asked us to paint their picnic tables, which we did, and which hopefully brought home the message about trying to help others when we can.
That evening our church fraternal took all of the Retreat participants out for ice cream. The place we go to in Williasmburg has a little playground next to it. In the playground are regular swings, but also one baby swing – you know the ones where you kind of drop the baby into this harness. Well, one of our 12 year old girls thought she would like to try it out. No problem getting in, but then she couldn’t figure out how to get out of the contraption. Finally some of the older boys had to come over and lift her out. I don’t think she’ll try that again.
On Wednesday we traveled up to Berkshire East to try out the Mountain Coaster. These are cars that ride on tracks down the side of that ski resort mountain. Saw Mary Ann Uchneat there with two of her grandsons who were visiting at the same time. Anyway, 12 year old Melanie Burek and I are the first ones to get in a car and start heading up the mountain. Even on the slow ride up, I’m yelling to the car behind us to say their prayers because we’re going to die. The whole way down I screamed at the top of my lungs. After the ride, Joanne Oliveira from our Fall River parish, one of our adult chaperones, told me that the kids waiting in line heard me screaming from the top to the bottom of the mountain. She had to try and calm them down so they would stay in line by telling them, “You know Fr. Calvo is only joking.” Nonetheless, everyone had a great time and next year we may go back and try the zip line all the way down the mountain. If they thought I was loud on the Mountain Coaster, wait until they hear me flying down the mountain on a thin little zip line!
That evening the kids broke up into small groups to write, rehearse and perform videos on “Our Three Words.” I guess that is an idea that is trending right now. They came up with messages like “Love One Another,” and then they acted it out however they liked. Some of those videos will then be used by the Prime Bishop when he puts together his webinar on Brotherly Love and that will be shared with us in September. Then, before you know it, it’s Thursday and time to go back home. I got back and took a two hour nap before sleeping all night long. Tristen was in my cabin. The lights are on, some of the kids are playing cards. There’s no way I can fall asleep, but Tristen is out cold, and then he repeats the feat in the morning when he sleeps through every wake-up call possible.
But we hope that these four days help our young people to better appreciate the gift of faith and church. We hope that these young people grow to see church as a safe and welcoming place. But we also try to make sure that they have fun – there’s swimming, boating, a climbing wall, high wires, archery, arts and crafts, kick ball, and most importantly there’s each other. Through our Youth Retreats, we want to help prepare them so that they can make the right choices throughout life, but most especially right now in their young lives. Joshua was prepared to stand alone if need be in his faith. The disciples watched as many of the other followers of Jesus turned away, but they remained, telling Jesus, “‘To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’” (John 6:68) Choices are always there every day. What we’re hoping to do through church is help people to recognize and make the right choices. This starts with our young people, but it never stops. Let us pray this morning that the choices we make may help to bring us closer to Christ, that we can say with Joshua: “‘As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.’” In Jesus’ name. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randolph Calvo