Megyn Kelly the former television journalist recently launched her own podcast discussing political, cultural and legal issues. In one episode she shared a pretty emotional story about her 10 year old son, Yates. Back in April, at arguably the worst of the COVID pandemic, Yates’ music teacher, Mr. Don Sorel, passed away. Megyn’s husband Doug had gotten the tragic news this particular afternoon while the family was at home. She said that she and her husband went from shock to immediately trying to figure out what to do. As she tells it, – “I’m in the middle of this happy moment with Yates and [Doug] shows me the [news] and it’s like, ‘Oh my God, what am I going to do? Am I going to spoil this moment?” But quickly she realized that Yates had to know the truth and that they, his parents, needed to be the ones to tell him. Especially in this day and age, with the reality that all the kids from Yates class are on zoom, or group texts where they text every 2 minutes… whether parents want to or should or shouldn’t shield them from difficult news doesn’t even seem an option anymore. Understandably, Megyn Kelly explained how telling him was one of the most awful experiences she has had as a Mom. She shared that neither she nor her son are prone to tears but that as she told him and she saw his eyes, she said “I couldn’t go on without crying, and then he cried. We held ourselves.” The next day kids from Mr Sorel’s classes ranging from 4th to 9th grade had a virtual memorial service where they shared stories about this special teacher and what made him so… how he helped to make school something to look forward to, how he made them laugh, how he made them love music.
Hi everyone here’s my homily for the SOLEMNITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSITY November 22, 2020. Thanks so much for stopping by to read this and even more for sharing it on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and everywhere else people share social media posts and your feedback and comments! For the audio version you can get them at SOUNDCLOUD click HERE or from ITUNES as a podcast HERE. Thanks again… I hope you and yours experience all of God’s blessings today and always! In Christ – Father Jim
Richie Sambora who is a rock superstar: a song writer, legendary guitarist, former member of Bon Jovi had learned about this painful loss and reached out to Megyn Kelly and her husband Doug. Sambora, Megyn and Doug had become friends over the last few years, so he contacted them on FaceTime and asked if maybe he could talk to their son Yates directly the next day. Megyn and doug were moved by the gesture and accepted it thinking Yates would appreciate having what they expected to be a 5 minute conversation with this music superstar who Yates greatly admired. What they thought would be a five minute conversation ended up with them talking for a full hour. Richie asked the grieving boy about his teacher, what made him so special… Then he said to him,“Well how are you feeling? ‘I know you’re sad about your teacher, so let’s write about that’ as he taught the young Yates how to start to journal to express his feelings. Then Sambora took it up a notch – he sent Yates a guitar the next day with the offer to teach him how to play, virtually… And then added something even more special: to help Yates write a song about Mr. Sorel. Richie explained to Yates ‘You just write your thoughts down and then you gather them into a pile and see … you start making up your feelings, and then you put a melody on it.’ ” Sambora committed to keep working and meeting with Yates, for as long as he wants.
For Megyn Kelly, she will never forget this generous and selfless gift especially at such a vulnerable and sad time for Yates and the entire family. Megyn Kelly summarized it directly and succinctly – “Richie Sambora was not checking a box.”
That’s a phrase that kind of says it all doesn’t it? We know the phoniness of “checking a box” – someone who’s done the minimum that’s required, so technically they can claim they’ve done a good thing, fulfilled an obligation, met the minimum expectation. But in reality it’s done half-heartedly… Without much thought, or effort. If we’re honest we know when we’re the recipients of someone “checking a box” – and if we’re brutally honest, times when we’ve simply checked a box ourselves. It’s usually an unspoken thing that on the surface looks okay but the reality of which you can only know deep within. It’s that subtle but real difference between those who say “call if you need anything” and those who really mean it. Or that friend who says “I’m here for you” as opposed to the one who actually is… we know the difference between genuine, sincere love and when someone is “checking a box.”
Today’s Gospel is pretty intense, clear and direct. As we celebrate this special solemnity to conclude the Church Year, where we make the bold declaration of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe – we’re asked to focus on what that means… What does it mean to claim to be a follower, a disciple, what is expected if we want to be a member of His Kingdom? Jesus lays out the seriousness to it in this passage. More than simply saying we’re followers… more than memorizing, reciting His words… more than even having received Him in the Sacraments – all of which are essential things for us in the life of faith. But Jesus tells us is that in the end, what we will be judged on is the quality, the sincerity, the depth of our Love for Him, especially towards those in most need.
Just think about the specificity in this Gospel passage. We hear a list of those in need- repeated 4 times just so we can’t say we missed it – the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the ill, the prisoner – and what separates the saved from the damned is our care, our concern – what we did for those in need. Perhaps because we’ve heard these words many times, there’s an ordinariness to it that doesn’t strike us as revolutionary or even demanding. We kind of think make a donation to this charity or donate some old clothes in a clothes drive and we’re good. Those are all good things that help us as a Church, as the collective body of Christ to speak to all of these needs on a global issue. But sometimes by doing those things, we can begin to kind of distance ourselves from this pretty direct obligation- almost make each of these a group of boxes to check. It reminds me of how in college our campus ministry presented us with a list of different service opportunities with this Gospel passage on the top of the list and kind of had a sign up sheet for each thing. Hungry and Thirsty – sign up for work at a Soup Kitchen; Prison ministry; visits to Nursing Homes; Clothes drives… You could cover the whole Gospel passage by the end of the semester. And not to diminish those activities, because they are great things to do to help those in need and hopefully raise awareness of these needs and different ways people can help.
Yet, there’s an expectation in this Gospel here that Jesus has for each of us as members of His Kingdom. To know, those who are suffering – to get our hands dirty, to get out of our comfort zones, to get involved. And that doesn’t always require a sign up to volunteer somewhere else, become a member of some social service organization dedicated to individuals who fall into particular categories. We often don’t have to look far for those who are suffering and in need. Do we have a family member who is hungering and thirsting – and if not for food or drink, maybe for compassion or our attention? Maybe there’s an acquaintance, someone we know on a certain level that we wouldn’t describe as a friend who is the “stranger” in our neighborhood, our workplaces, our school, our dorm who we haven’t bothered with because, well we’re in NJ and we don’t do things like that – who just by taking the initiative and introducing ourselves to them extends a welcome that helps transform their sense of community of belonging… Clothing drives are great outreaches to help the poor, and hopefully we do not encounter “nakedness” in the physical sense of the word, – but who is someone who has been mortified by something embarrassing, overwhelmed by some shame or guilt that just extending some support, some care, can help “clothe” them? And even if we don’t know someone in a Jail or correctional facility, after a year of lockdowns, stay at home orders, social distancing – our understanding of someone being a prisoner can be understood to be much broader. It can be just because of these bizarre circumstances we’ve experienced – it can be the torment someone experiences dealing with an addiction that has them prisoner to some destructive force.
Notice Jesus doesn’t tell us we have to heal or fix or free all those individuals from these terrible circumstances… Those things might lie outside of our ability – those are things Christ Himself will accomplish. But our care, our concern, our accompanying people, our love can be the first step for Him to do just that.
Richie Sambora in learning about the death of Yate’s music teacher could have shot off a text message saying “Sorry to hear about your loss Yates” and most people would have thought oh that was sweet of him. While Sambora had no obligation, responsibility or reason to go out of his way to accompany a young boy in his grief and help him process one of the most difficult things he’s probably encountered in his young life, something told him that this wasn’t a box to be checked off . He felt the pain of someone he knew who was suffering and thought what can I do to help?
Jesus is asking us to have a similar broader vision. To have our eyes, our minds, our hearts open to look for opportunities to extend ourselves rather than allowing our busyness to be an excuse; to not parrot the talking point that it’s someone elses problem or the lies of the devil I’m sure someone knows about this, or someone should take care of that. Jesus makes it clear – that someone is us. And when we do, we find ourselves encountering Him as He makes the urgency all the more explicit: I was hungry… I was thirsty… I was a stranger… I was naked… I was ill… I was in prison. And you did it for me. That alone is reason not to have to, but want to get involved.