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Homily for term opening Mass at St. Francis of Assisi 2018-09-26

Term opening Mass at St. Francis of Assisi
By M Sloboda, Wed., Sept. 26, 2018

Principal, supervisor, teachers and students, I need to explain why you have not seen me lately. Rosary Church used to have 3 priests in residence, but as of Sept. 1, one of them was transferred to HK Island. We do not yet have a replacement. When I heard the bad news, I immediately asked myself a question: How can 2 priests eat as much food as 3 priests? The answer is, we should not try. There is too much food in HK. I need to lose weight. When we have the chance to overeat, it’s good to remember a wise saying from ancient Rome: a healthy mind in a healthy body. That means enough sleep and exercise, not too much sugar, not too much caffeine, and not too much junk food. A healthy mind in a healthy body.

Later I thought of a second question: how can 2 priests do the work of 3 priests? I’m afraid it’s not possible. I will be inside the church for English Mass at 8:00 AM, Monday through Saturday. So I cannot get to either campus until 9:00 or 9:10 AM. I miss seeing you enter the campus and I miss the morning assembly. You will see me occasionally, but not at the start of the school day.

We thank God for a new school year. Looking at the bigger picture, when was the last time we thanked God for living in HK, China? This is one of the safest cities in the world. When I was in Form 4, a senior student was angry at his school. Remember, I’m telling a story about St. Louis, USA, not about HK, China. Without asking permission, he went into his father’s room and borrowed a rifle. It was the gun his father used during deer hunting season in mid-November to kill a deer in the forest, so that his family would have fresh meat for Thanksgiving Thursday and every day for a month afterwards. My parents went to the supermarket and purchased a turkey. Getting back to the angry young man, he stood across the street at midnight, lifted the rifle and shot several windows in my school. Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Then he ran away. He felt unbelievably happy, until the police caught him. Early the next morning, we saw the broken windows and fragments of glass. That is one of my school memories from S4. I love my country, yet I have to admit that life in the USA gets slightly chaotic at times. If any student hopes to attend a university in the USA, talk to me another day. Today we thank God for living in HK, China, in one of the safest cities in the world.

Maybe you’ve noticed someone wearing a T Shirt with the words Thinking Too Much Causes Problems. It is painful for them to think, to examine their lives. So they smoke, drink alcohol, listen to loud music, and play video games. Then they are not alone with their thoughts; they can forget about thinking for a while. Some those diversions feel unbelievably good in the beginning, but they cause huge problems in the long run. Maybe the thought of spending time in silence to pray or to meditate sound scary, yet chaos is scarier.

When people feel empty inside, when their life has no purpose, no objective, who benefits? The economy benefits. When people are bored, they drink cheap wine to numb the pain, or they buy the best whiskey to impress their friends. Going to a mall and buying more clothing than can fit into the closet is called Retail Therapy. We buy things we do not need, with money we do not have, in order to impress people we do not like. Money cannot buy happiness. Other people fly around the world to this beach and that ancient city, hoping to feel happier. Will we feel better inside after a change of scenery? Maybe for a short time. Moving from one place to another in order to solve an inner problem is called the Geographical Cure. The Geographical Cure does not work.

The first reading today mentions water in the desert [Isaiah 44:1-8]. I was able to visit Israel once. We prayed in the holy places. It was a wonderful pilgrimage. Northern Israel is green, but as we went south it got drier and drier. Further south is Arabia. In Arabia, people say “Sunshine every day makes a desert.” Even in the desert, it rains 2 or 3 days a year, yet that is not enough. The scenery is only rocks and sand, nothing else. In some parts of Arabia there is enough rain for green grass; and in a few areas it is wet enough for trees. We should not take water for granted. Do not waste water.

My grandparents in Eastern Europe said, “Too much of a good thing is not a good thing.” Typhoon Mangkhut struck HK 10 days ago, and we had far too much rain. Thank God both the primary and the secondary campus only lost one tree each. All the buildings have an intact roof, the windows did not break, and the classrooms were not flooded. It could have been worse. Since the school began 61 years ago, we have had droughts and floods. People were seriously worried. Yet both HK and our school are still going strong.

In life, we all have dry times. We feel empty and bored. Other times everything seems to happen at once. People speak about being flooded with information and drowning in data. Some people are hit with a huge wave of emotion. It’s good to find the right balance, and better to talk to a friend or a relative when we feel like we are in the middle of a desert or in the middle of a typhoon.

September 28 is the birthday of Confucius 孔子. That is Teachers’ Day in Taiwan My compliments to the teachers in MFS. You have an important job. It’s not an easy job. God bless you.
What can I say about learning? There was a king in the old days. His subjects whispered behind his back “He learns nothing and he forgets nothing.” What? They meant if the king made a mistake, he did not learn a lesson from it. He did not ask anyone, “What went wrong? Next time, what should I do?” That king learned nothing from his mistakes. Yet when someone else did something stupid, the king laughed and never forgot the mistake. In case the king or queen of another country criticized him or ridiculed him, he never forgot the insult, and he would wait years for the opportunity to strike back. He never forgot the mistakes of his enemies. In brief, he learned nothing and he forgot nothing.
Some decades ago, an actor in Hollywood was becoming famous. A friend said, “Congratulations! You are on the road to success.” The young actor shook his head sadly and replied, “It is not enough for me to succeed; other people must fail.” [Attributed to more than one actor] Students, is it enough for you to do well academically, or do other students have to do poorly? It feels great to learn you scored 100% on an exam. Suppose a minute later you hear that 3 classmates also got 100%. Will you suddenly feel miserable? Or you will you be happy for them? Envy is dangerous. If we feel envious, it’s hard to be loyal to classmates, harder to thank God for our blessings, and almost impossible to enjoy life.

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