22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sept. 3rd, 2017

Fr. Tim’s Corner

“She was trying as hard as she could to bring humanity into shattered lives.”   These words of a mother’s son get to the heart of Noreen Skagen’s life:   its genuine nature and motivation.  I read this quote in the Seattle Times the other morning; words spoken by Noreen’s son, Clark Kimerer.  Clark, along with his wife Julie, is a parishioner at OLL. 

Noreen died recently at her home in Mill Creek.  She was 87 years old.  A “pioneer in women’s history and law enforcement”, she was Seattle’s first female assistant police chief.  Initially, her work involved “advocating for women and children; those “shattered lives”.  The article recalled that it was not uncommon in those early days to find Noreen “crawling beneath homes and into crawl spaces to rescue abused and neglected kids.”  As I read that, I could not help but think of Christ who, taking the lowest place, sought to save those who felt lost; like a good shepherd.

As a teen, Clark recalled visiting his mother at work and witnessing this first-hand.  Noreen was with a young woman who had been arrested on prostitution charges; “But mom spoke to her with such patience and compassion.”  Not only that.  Noreen stayed in touch with this woman, hoping “to shift her life onto a safer path.”  That made a lasting impression on her son’s life at the time.

I mention this because it brings fresh insight to Jesus’ words this 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time; words on discipleship and what it means to follow. (Matthew 16:21-27)  It involves taking up one’s cross:  to lose my life, paradoxically, save’s it.  Intent on saving my life loses it.  A safe life is no life at all, Jesus seems to be saying.   If we’re hell-bent on saving our own skin before all else, then we miss the point of life and why we’re here in the first place.  The biblical scholar, Eugene Peterson, puts it well:  “Self-help is no help at all.  Self-sacrifice is the way…to finding yourself, your true self.” (“The Message”)

What does it mean to “take up one’s cross”; this metaphor of discipleship?  It means finding within me, with God’s help, the willingness to bear the burden of humanity that I witness in the other.   The monastic Rule I lived for 17 years puts it this way:  “Carry one another’s weaknesses, whether in body or behavior.  In this way you imitate Christ.”

Noreen Skagen did just that, with “patience and compassion”; bringing “humanity into shattered lives.”    Like Christ, she was a trailblazer: crawling into the darkest places and bringing into the light anyone considered “a throwaway in many peoples’ eyes.”     True to herself and so unselfconsciously, she followed Christ.  She ‘got it’. 

Father Tim Clark, pastor


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