Why am I here?
What am I doing here?
I asked myself these questions almost everyday
during the time I was a patient at St. John Vianney Treatment Center,
a psychiatric care facility for clergy and religious.
What was only supposed to be a 6 week stay, a little rest,
and a quick adjustment to my stress management skills,
wound up being a 9 month ordeal.
I voluntarily admitted myself in June 2009
and they didn’t release me until March 2010.
“Why am I here?” I’d ask myself.
“What am I doing here?”
I believe it was the result of what is now called “A Perfect Storm”.
A number of elements in my life converged and joined forces:
childhood trauma, anger and depression,
being pastor of a small parish with no support staff, not even a secretary
while simultaneously running the diocesan tribunal office.
When the perfect storm hit, I was the only canon lawyer in the office.
A year prior, the other full time canon lawyer had to resign
and no replacement had yet been found.
The most devastating component of this convergence, however,
was the death of my parents.
My father died July 4, 2004. His death was expected
and was a blessing when it came.
My mother died four weeks later. Her death was a blow.
She died in the hospital during surgery.
I talked with her as they prepped her.
I called her a “blue haired lady” because she was wearing one of those blue hair covers.
I never, no one ever, spoke to her again.
Within those four weeks, my support system, my home,
the people who provided for me in the times of greatest need were gone.
Brothers and sisters and friends can sustain us, can walk with us,
but they are not parents. It’s not the same.
From here I started a slow spiral downward.
I started drinking too much.
I misused prescription pain killers in order to sleep at night.
And I couldn’t keep up with my responsibilities.
In late 2008, early 2009 the bottom fell out.
“Why am I here? What am I doing here?” I asked myself day after day.
I was confronted by my limitations. I felt powerless.
I was underwater and sinking fast. I needed help and I knew it.
I was there voluntarily, at St. John Vianney of my own free will,
because I believed I wasn’t doomed to my distress.
I believed in a future where I was no longer enslaved in my struggles.
I refused to believe the hell I was in was to be my lot in life,
was meant to be my reward for doing God’s will and God’s work.
I trusted…that if I surrendered to the process, I could and would be healed
that my life could be restored to me,
that God would re-create me, bless me with a newness of life,
that my spirit could be raised up and that I could begin to live for God again.
Some people have made the comment saying
“I’m surprised you’re still here, in the diocese, in the priesthood.”
I am still here because I believe someone greater than I has made it so.
As we gather in St. Agnes Church on this Easter Sunday 2015
we might want to ask ourselves
“Why am I here? What am I doing here?”
It’s not to have a pity party for Msgr. Enzweiler.
We are here because no matter how strong our faith,
how blessed our lives, how few are our sorrows,
no matter how much we think we have it all together
we are all confronted by the limitations of our humanity,
we are all powerless when it comes to the reality of death.
We are here because we believe that God has the desire and the power
to provide for us what we can’t provide for ourselves: life after death.
We are here because someone important to us,
someone who has touched our lives, shown us the meaning of life,
someone who has loved us unconditionally, has died:
Jesus Christ, Son of God. The Teacher. The Master.
We saw him nailed to a cross. We saw him put in the grave.
The light he brought into this world was gone.
Without him the future seems bleak.
Without him the possibility of true peace and justice and human fulfillment is not possible.
Without him the world is lost in darkness, corruption, depravity.
We are here because we believe…the story of his life did not end in the grave.
In him, the limitation of human death has been overcome.
We believe without seeing for ourselves…his tomb is empty. He is not there.
We believe the testimony of those who tell us “He is Alive!
We spoke with him. We ate with him. We touched him.”
With resurrection what is normal and expected is disrupted.
A door is opened to a wider yet wonderfully mysterious world.
God reaches into our world in a new and unbelievable way…..
astonishes us with an incredible and awesome revelation.
We make no claim of knowing how it is possible, but we believe.
Jesus Christ is eternal. And we believe: we are meant to share in his life.
“Rise up, O people of God, Rise up.
Set your faces toward the rising Son and rejoice!”
This is our song.
We sing it to celebrate. We sing it to remember:
ours is a heavenly origin. Ours is a heavenly destination.
This truth is written in our hearts
but gets lost amid the anxieties, the worries, the fears, our worldly concerns.
The importance of our faith can fade into the shadows.
What once burned in our heart now only smolders, grows cold.
We are here with great hope:
God can re-awakening within us the memory of who we are,
can lead us beyond our personal preoccupations
into a more significant destiny.
We are a people who travel, who make our way,
according to a splendid vision of life.
The calendar reminds us: it’s Easter.
But our souls exist beyond such imposed mechanical measuring.
We are determined by something much greater than a clock:
something that is timeless.
We are waiting for today, longing for today.
Not as in April 5, 2015
but as in the day of resurrection.
Today is a celebration
of the greatest manifestation of God’s love, God’s mercy, God’s power
to us and to our world: death is not the final answer….life is.
We await the fulfillment of a divine promise:
if we share in Jesus’ death, if we willingly and obediently follow him to the cross,
if we remain faithful to his teaching, live according to his ways,
we have a share in his Resurrection.
This is God's plan, God's doing, God's gift.
This is how God works.
This is what God wants to do for us
in order for us to be in an eternal relationship with him.
This is what God does to overcome the barriers,
the obstacles that keep us separated from him.
This is what God does to unite us to him forever. What must we do?
The last thing we want God to say to us on this day is
“I see your lips moving but all I hear is BLAH! BLAH! BLAH!”
But this is exactly what happens
when our heart, our mind, soul...become an empty tomb.
What does the Lord want to hear from us?
“I believe.” Nothing more and nothing less. “I believe.”
“I believe my existence and my life are linked to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I believe this is how you, O Lord, are involved in my life and in the world.
I believe…O God, your wonders and designs all converge on this day,
their forces join together creating an undeniable yet indescribable occasion
where goodness, truth, love, peace, light,
where your ways are reborn, are given new life.
I believe that I need You, O Lord. I need your saving help.
I believe that you have never and will never abandon me or this world.
I believe “….the Son will come out….tomorrow”; or as Sandy says “ru rar roe.”
I believe that having faith is better than not having faith
for it not only transforms me but it transforms this world.
I believe today can be a day of new beginnings.
“I believe, O Lord. I believe in you. Help my unbelief.”
“Where am I? What am I doing here?”
You’re in St. Agnes Church. It’s Easter.
And you are joining countless believers
who today renew their faith in God’s work of salvation.
In the midst of this unpredictable world we hold on to a great revelation:
Resurrection: it is the triumphant and final victory of divine grace.
We raise our voices believing God hears what is truly in our hearts:
not BLAH! BLAH! BLAH!
but “….Alleluia” (sing Halleluiah chorus).
Why am I here?