“Let us remember the past with gratitude, live the present with enthusiasm, and look forward to the future with confidence.” This is one of the thoughts expressed by St. John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter “At the Beginning of the Third Millennium”. It’s also a theme that is reaffirmed by Pope Francis when he speaks about renewal in the life of the Church. He speaks of the importance of expressing gratitude for the past, of prayerful discernment of the present and of having hope for the future.
When I consider the past 60 years of OLL, gratitude is the primary response that emerges from my heart. I think of Msgr. Peter and his many years of service. I think of Msgr. Stroup whom I was never privileged to meet personally, but who nonetheless I have come to know as a very human founding pastor of this parish. I think of the many men and women of deep faith who built our community from nothing. The buildings that were erected on this field were physical expressions of the deeper realities of a community of faith growing and becoming… How richly God has blessed us! It is good for all of us to consider not only our personal journey that has brought us to this time and place, but to see our personal journeys in continuity with all those who have come before us. Thanksgiving is the natural response, and this is why we can appreciate the great things that God has accomplished for us, in us and through us. Here at Lourdes, we belong to a large family who have excelled in the witness of their faith over the past decades, a family who learned to live their lives in service of their neighbors because of their great love for God. I know that over the years there were struggles and difficulties, disputes and differences, but all of this was still expressive of the goodness and mercy of God toward us, a God who with all our human frailties and inclinations to make messes in life, loves us with a love beyond all telling, never forgetting us, his children.
As we celebrate 60 years, we do so mindful that much has changed in our lives and in our world since 1958. It is important that we consider ourselves and our own place in the life history of our parish community. It is important that we discern the realities of our current situation, and do do this prayerfully, with the guidance of the light of the Holy Spirit. We are not called upon to make sacrifices in the same way or for the same reasons as the men and women who literally built this parish from nothing. However, we are called to step up and shoulder our responsibilities to maintain and to grow that which has been handed on to us. Our sacrifice will necessarily be different, but nonetheless, we are called to be all that we need to be for the good of the future life of our community that has not yet been revealed to us by God. This call can only be engaged and responded to by those who have a heart for it. To respond requires an interior maturity of spirit, and a conviction of the goodness of those around us working together to build up the community of believers here in Northridge, in our service of the Gospel of Jesus. Our discipleship must be a lived reality in our day-to-day lives, and our commitment to the community life must be marked by a trust in the goodness of God who is ever faithful. Ultimately, our work is God’s work, and its fruitfulness is not in doubt.
Here at Our Lady of Lourdes we now find ourselves celebrating 60 years of the Catholic presence in Northridge. Like the Universal Church, we are constantly opening ourselves up to the work of the Holy Spirit among us, that we might grow deeper and deeper in our discipleship of Jesus, and so grow in love of the Father. Such an occasion as this gives us an opportunity to pause to acknowledge with gratitude the blessings that have been passed on to us by our forebears in the faith here in Northridge. In so doing, we are better able to open the eyes of our hearts to take stock of the current realities of our community, and we are well situated to step forward into a future of life-giving mission and service as a community of believers. Our hope is not to be confused with simple optimism. We move forward together, assured in the conviction of God’s blessings, and confident in our shared faith. We do not walk a strange road, but rather we continue to walk paths familiar to us because the first steps along this way were walked by our parents and grandparents. Now is our time to forge forward, by God’s grace, continuing to build a better community, a better world for our children, for our grandchildren, and for all God’s people.