Charlie was my dad’s oldest brother; he was named after their father. Uncle Charlie was a tall, slender, soft-spoken guy with a contagious sense of humor and hair that had been white since high school. Then… there were his sisters and sister-in-laws and no one ever accused theses ladies of being soft-spoken or laid-back. Whenever little nieces and nephews would arrive at a family gathering these aunts of mine would sweep down to hug and kiss and fuss. Charlie, however, sat back amused and just watched the flurry play itself out. Soon enough, one by one the little kids would slip away from our aunt’s frantic attention and gather around Uncle Charlie who would listen to our stories, take notice of our needs, laugh at our jokes and banter with us about school, baseball and whatever was on our minds that day. At the end of every single visit Charlie would secretly, out of parent’s sight as we headed out the door, place a 50ct piece into each of his nieces and nephews palms. When we grew older the coins were replaced with paper but the truth is we would all want to spend time with Uncle Charlie, cash or no cash.
Our Aunts forever marveled at Charlie’s apparently effortless rapport with kids, from infants to teens. If the truth be told, I’m sure Charlie aggravated as well as mystified the aunts.
It appears that Jesus didn’t pursue the crowds the way my aunts pursued us-smothering them with attention at first sight. Instead, He seems to have waited rather quietly and only then offered something they desired- even if the crowd couldn’t quite put a definite name to their own desires. All Uncle Charlie offered his nieces and nephews was time, patience, and a genuine interest in hearing about their lives and concerns.
Beginning in September St. Matthias Parish will participate with 30 or so other parishes in the Archdiocese in a very new program called “Parish Transformation.” The ultimate goal of the “Parish Transformation” process is to discover new ways of looking at parish life, to adopt new pastoral and fiscal practices where we find them advantageous, and to initiate ongoing reviews and refinement of the mission and vision of the parish at regular intervals. That sound like Jesus responding to the needs and desires of the crowd even before any of them could be clearly named. It even sounds a bit like Uncle Charlie devoting time, patience and genuine interest in what his nieces and nephews had to say.
I’ll have more information in the bulletin over the next weeks but you can check the Archdiocese of Chicago website now to learn the basics. Go to Archchicago.org and then type Transformation in the search bar. If you do, let me know what you think.