St. Pierre parish, Baradères, Haiti — sister parish of St. John the Baptist Catholic Community, Silver Spring, Md.
Monsignor Kazista, pastor of St. John the Baptist parish, my dear brothers and sisters and benefactors, greetings.
By the grace of God, I have the honor once again on behalf of all my parishioners to come to strengthen our bond of fraternity and solidarity. They send you their greetings and their heartfelt thanks.
My sermon consists of two parts: First, a discussion of today's reading. Second, some news for you from Baradères.
My brothers and sisters, the Evangelist Mark has placed between the second and third announcements of the coming passion a series of Jesus' teachings concerning the burning questions of daily life, among which are the fundamental law of marriage and the importance of children.
These are two points that concern us all, since in today's society, we speak all the time about family and children. There are numerous thoughts and sayings about these subjects, for example: "As the family fares, so does society," and "Children are our future."
The first part of the gospel talks about the Pharisees who want to put Jesus to the test, and they ask him the question, "Is it permissible for a husband to repudiate his wife?"
That was astonishing, since the permission was already granted by Mosaic law. But Jesus continues to insist that this permission was granted by Moses because of the people's own hardness of heart. What God has joined, let no one separate. That is also a reference to the first reading, which decreed marriage to be the will of God in Genesis Chapter 2, verses 18 to 24.
Today, several couples present here must know that their own will alone is not sufficient to preserve their marriage. They must rely on the grace of God. He intervenes daily to strengthen their familial love, and provides them both equally with the same support and the same rights. How often families and couples break up because God is not sufficiently present in their lives! May all families try to do the will of God, so that they may have true, lasting peace.
I often like to repeat to couples on the occasion of their marriage that they must behave as two adults, but also as two children. Didn't Jesus tell his disciples, "Don't hinder the little children, because the kingdom of God belongs to such as these"?
The child in this case is the symbol of openness. The child does not calculate and doesn't get lost in unending rationalizations. A child could not live without being loved. The world today will not die if it lives in love. The husband and wife will survive as a couple if they live in love. Each of us here present should make ourselves humble like a child of God in order to live in harmony with our God of love and to contribute to the welfare of the whole community, as the second reading tells us.
My beloved brothers and sisters, I would venture to say that the bond between Baradères and St. John the Baptist parish is indestructible because it is woven in the sincerity and humility of a child. My presence here today strengthens the solidarity, the love, the sharing, and the fraternity between Baradères and St. John the Baptist.
Let me tell you a little bit about Baradères. After leaving the national highway toward the south of Haiti, you must spend three hours of arduous travel to reach Baradères. On arrival, you will be welcomed by the coolness of the trees, the breeze from the sea, and vibrant, unspoiled nature. It is a magnificent valley. In the rainy season, the streams everywhere flow into the main river that divides the town in two parts. (This is also why we often have floods in the rainy season.) I provide this brief description so that you can picture the place in which you invest so much.
The works of St. John the Baptist for Baradères are numerous; as an example, we can cite St. John the Baptist High School. It plays a major role in the region of Baradères. Even though the socio-political climate of the country is precarious, St. John the Baptist High School offers our youth a quality education, and it constitutes the pride of the region. It has been integrated into the educational milieu and serves as a model for the entire district. The school has achieved a 99 percent pass rate on the official nationwide exams for the 2005-2006 school year. We continue to have far-reaching plans for this noble institution. You have undoubtedly heard the echoes of the celebration from this past year's graduating class.
We must note the continuing construction work that is in progress to welcome the arrival of new students and to accommodate the vocational classes: carpentry, embroidery, cooking, and pastry-making. While the government issues pronouncements about its projects for the reopening of the school year, the parishioners of St. John the Baptist provide concrete actions for the youth of Baradères. Two hundred forty high school students are already beginning the 2006-2007 school year, having been provided with instruction, classroom furniture, and a hot meal on school days.
Besides St. John the Baptist High School, the 600 students at John Paul II Elementary School in Baradères have also received instruction, classroom furniture, and a hot meal on school days, again thanks to our friends at St. John the Baptist parish. We cannot forget the 11 mission schools spread throughout the parish, which provide free education to 1600 students. These are the children of the most impoverished people from the hills and the most remote places of the parish.
The principal products of Baradères are coffee, rice, corn, millet, sugar cane, and food staples. In addition to supporting its professional instructors, St. John the Baptist High School participates in the local economy by purchasing 70 percent of what Baradères grows to feed the children in the cafeteria.
With respect to the health of the community, Baradères faces many epidemics, such as malaria, typhoid, and so on. This is why our friends, the nurses and doctors from St. John the Baptist parish, are always welcome, and we always appreciate the disease-fighting medicines that you send in the boxes. A nutritional program has just been undertaken to develop an understanding of a well-balanced diet.
My brothers and sisters, friends from St. John the Baptist, our annual meetings with you are biblical. Whoever gives even a glass of water to his neighbor, said Jesus, will not go unrewarded.
I want to tell you as well that because of your works, you will always have a special place in the history of Baradères. You invest in all aspects of life in Baradères: education, health, environment, economics, etc. In this way, you participate in the building of the community, since, to repeat an old adage: "The quality of the schools determines the quality of the nation."
Never forget that your support is indispensable for us, and we offer in return our prayers, our love, our hospitality, and our gratitude.
I am taking this opportunity to thank, on behalf of my parishioners, all the clergy of the parish of St. John the Baptist: Monsignor Kazista, Fr. Scott, the deacons, and the visiting priests. I extend my thanks also to Cynthia, who manages all the programs, the members of the Sister Parish Committee, all the staff of the parish, and all the members of St. John the Baptist parish.
I am visiting for one whole week; I am available to you to talk about Baradères. Don't hesitate to ask me questions.
Thank you to one and all.
God bless you. Amen.