by Deacon Ken Meade
Readings: Isaiah 2: 1-8, Acts 2: 42-47, Ps 118, Lk 4: 16-21
It is with mixed emotions that we gather together this evening. Our love and condolences go to Fr. Al’s mother, his brother and sister, his brothers in vows, and all of his family.
Saying goodbye is always difficult and yet it is made easier because we know by faith that death is not the end. It is this knowledge that gives us comfort as we say farewell. We are all on a pilgrimage to the Lord’s house. And so, there is cause for rejoicing here, because our brother has gone ahead before us. While he is no longer with us serving our community of faith, he is in a position to be a powerful intercessor for us.
The scripture readings for today’s liturgy were picked by Fr. Al. The reading from Isaiah reminds us that we are pilgrims on the way to the Lord’s house and speaks of things that will be: In the days to come, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it; many peoples shall come and say: “Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways and we may walk in his paths.”
This passage is full of hope. There will be a time when all nations will stream to the Lord’s house and look to it as the source of instruction. Many peoples will walk together in God’s path. When that happens there will be peace, for Isaiah says, They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks…. One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. There is so much violence and hatred in the world between peoples. Terrorism is on everyone’s mind. Why is there all of this hatred and violence? What is it that is keeping us from realizing the peace promised by Isaiah?
The final three verses of the Isaiah passage speak to us in our day and perhaps give us a clue. Their land is full of silver and gold, and there is no end to their treasures…. Their land is full of idols; they worship the works of their hands, that which their fingers have made. America and the western world are wealthy beyond the wildest dreams of most people on this earth. Our modern society is obsessed with wealth and affluence. Could it be that peace is just out of reach for us because our focus as a society is on the false idol of wealth rather than on God? Instead of sharing the blessings that God has given us, we are inclined to hoard our wealth and largely ignore the needs of poor. This only breeds envy and anger in our impoverished neighbors. And so as a nation, we cling to treasure that is fleeting at best.
Perhaps, just perhaps, we are being reminded where our real treasure is. It is not to be found in streets lined with gold, but upon the mountain top in the Lord’s house. It is there on the Lord’s mountain that the world will find the way to peace, not in the works of human hands. It is not what we have that draws us to God, but what we share with others.
In this respect, Fr. Al was truly counter-cultural in his love of poverty. He came to learn over the years, that if something got between him and Jesus, it wasn’t worth having. Living simply with few possessions among the poor meant following the example of Jesus. And so it is that the gospel teaches us to live simply, being poor in spirit and sharing with the less fortunate in order to be focused on the Lord’s house on his holy mountain.
If we are to be truly Christian, we must be counter cultural and we cannot do it alone. We need one another’s support to stand firm and resist the negative influences of society. Even more importantly, we need each other’s support and encouragement to transform the world and lead all peoples to God. Acts 2: 42 is the theme of Presentation Ministries and it is a synthesis of the key values of the Christian Community, “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread, and to the prayers.” Our communal life centers around the celebration of the Eucharist. Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, refers to the Eucharist as the “source and summit of Christian life.” It is at this table that we find our source of nourishment and strength. Here we listen to the teaching handed down to us from the apostles. Here we share our prayers and we experience the love and support of the community of faith. Fr. Al understood the need for a close, intimate, experience of community. He leaves us a heritage of nearly forty Christian home-based communities, the People of Pentecost, and his beloved Fathers and Brothers of Pentecost.
The Eucharist and the scripture readings of the day were at the very center of Fr. Al’s teaching. The focus of his work in Presentation Ministries was to call Catholics to attend Mass and read the scriptures daily. Fr. Al founded many apostolic projects such as the daily devotional One Bread, One Body, the Telephone Bible Line, the radio program, Daily Bread, and the annual Bible Institute as a way of making disciples who go on to make other disciples for Christ.
In baptism we are not only welcomed into God’s family, but we are also given the commission to spread the Good News about Jesus and the kingdom of God. We are given a gift and a responsibility. We are charged not only with continuing what Fr. Al started, but with growing the lay apostolate in service to the Church.
The liturgy that we celebrate today is meant to remind us of our rising to new life in baptism. Fr. Al never ceased to point out the importance of our own baptism. He encouraged us to celebrate our baptismal day as even more significant than our birthday, because it is the day of our rebirth into the promise of eternal life.
Today, we sprinkled Fr. Al’s casket with holy water as a reminder of his baptism. At baptism, we were clothed with a white garment as a sign of a soul free from the stain of sin. We recall the words of the baptismal rite which say, “You have become a new creation, and have clothed yourselves with Christ. See in this white garment the outward sign of our Christian dignity. With your family and friends to help you by word and example, bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven." We remember the white garment of Fr. Al’s baptism by placing the white pall over his body as a symbol of a soul filled with grace. The light of the Easter candle was present at his baptism and it reminds us that death was conquered once and for all by Christ’s death and resurrection. The light of Christ burned brightly in Fr. Al during his lifetime and now he stands in the light of Christ’s presence.
Fr. Al was fond of recounting the fact that he had been a daily communicant since he had made his First Holy Communion at age seven. No doubt this had a great impact on his life and influenced him to answer God’s call to Holy Orders. On May 25, 1974, then Bishop Bernadin ordained Albert Lauer a priest for the diocese of Cincinnati. With ordination came the call and the special grace to become an alter Christus, another Christ. Fr. Al Lauer saw his mission as the continuation of the mission of Jesus, that is to spread the Good News. And so he could rightly say along with Jesus, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”
In a very real way, because Fr. Al was faithful to his baptismal call to imitate Christ, it is appropriate to say, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” Let us imitate Fr. Al Lauer’s example in proclaiming the Good News and give thanks to the Lord for the time that he spent among us.