Dear Sacred Heart Family,
Slab Fork, West Virginia, is nearly 150 miles west of our parish, and takes almost three hours to drive to. In that coal mining town, the singer William Harrison Withers, Jr., was born on Independence Day, July 4, 1938, the youngest of six children. His parents divorced when he was three, and he grew up nearby with extended family, suffering from asthma and stuttering. The only strong industry was coal mining, and Bill Withers was eager to get away; he joined the Navy at 17. Serving for nine years, while stationed in Guam, he started singing in bars.
Reflecting on his youth, he noted, “We lived right on the border of the black and white neighborhood. I heard guys playing country music and in church I heard gospel. There was music everywhere.” Growing up in the tight-knit community of Slab Fork, he experienced people relying on and taking care of each other. When he moved to Los Angeles, he missed the warmth of those close community ties. Living in a run down house in L.A., he bought a piano, began tinkering with the keys. He was inspired to write a song which has been covered numerous times, and inspires to this day: “Lean on Me” was his chart topping hit of 1972, with a message to speaks to the heart: Lean on Me. . . call on me, when you need a hand.” The song echoes, “Call me, call me.”
How wonderful and life-transforming is the grace to discover that Jesus waits for us in the Blessed Sacrament, the Holy Eucharist is a game-changer. Jesus yearns for us to call on Him, and call out to Him for love and support. Music and poetry can capture such powerful truths. Like “Lean on Me” speaks about friendship, the Footsteps Poem is an inspirational reflection on how the Lord carries us through such difficult moments. When asking the Lord why He leaves a person alone at times in life, and wasn’t walking alongside that soul, Jesus reveals the truth. The times when only one set of footprints appear on our path, is when God is carrying you.
This Sunday the readings reflect on the truth that Jesus, the Risen Lord, is our Good Shepherd. The readings rebuke false shepherds who don’t care for, or mislead the Lord’s flock. This week, the Church celebrates the 50th anniversary of Blessed Paul VI—soon to be canonized a saint in October by Pope Francis—releasing his hugely controversial encyclical, Humanae Vitae. More than 90% of Catholics practice contraception, often unaware of Blessed Paul’s beautiful and prophetic document.
Artificial contraception promised a powerful revolution of stronger marriages, less divorce, wanted and loved children, and reduced abortion. Pope Paul’s prophetic warnings came to pass. Skyrocketing divorce, millions of abortions, broken marriages, abuse and objectifying of women: the shattered legacy of a culture which thought contraception would solve, not cause, more problems.
Paul was a heroic Shepherd. Let’s take a renewed look at Jesus the Good Shepherd who accompanied us through Paul’s beautiful and prophetic teachings. Planning families, in an organic and harmonious way, is an incredible challenge. Jesus understands the agony of couples. He walks with couples, calling us to learn His loving Truth. It was a journey for me to understand and believe Paul VI’s teachings while a young man. Many families sincerely don’t know or haven’t read and reflected on it for their families. We are often alone, confused and in tough situations. Let’s pray to know the Lord’s plan for our families, and to heal our culture with a new revolution of grace, mercy and the light of truth. We can call on, and lean on Him for strength to live in His Love.
Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart,
Fr. Bjorn Lundberg