“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry”       Psalm 40:1

Dear Friends,

Have you ever been stuck? Literally?

Last Saturday morning, Kathleen and I saw this squirrel in our backyard. We have often watched as he contorts himself in all kinds of positions to try and grab a snack at the birdfeeders. But after a few moments, we realized this time he was stuck.

While I was thinking about calling Animal Control, my smart and brave wife just picked up a broom, cautiously approached the feeder, extended her arm and with one, quick, strong upward jerk, set the squirrel free! The squirrel scampered to a nearby tree, climbed to the first branch and began licking a slightly bloody paw.

Although more than one squirrel ventures into our yard, Kathleen and I are confident that our unstuck friend is okay and is the one shown in the second photo, staying on the ground, having learned a lesson. (We have put tape on the spot where he was stuck in case he forgets!)

In any case, psalm 40 continues with these words in verses two and three:

He lifted me out of the desolate pit, set my feet upon a high cliff and made my footing sure…He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God…”

Psalm 118, verse 5, provides further good news;

“I called to the Lord in my distress; the Lord answered by setting me free.”

Thank God for first responders like Kathleen, who saved the squirrel. Thank God for the times we have been set free from whatever has had a strong grip on us, whatever has held us back, whatever has left us stuck.

See you on Sunday.

Fr. John

P.S. Shortly after finishing this articlethe news broke about this week’s mass shooting at a church school in Nashville. I cannot ignore that. America needs to be freed from gun violence. By the time you read this, we will know more than is known now. One of the parents I saw being interviewed, overwhelmed with emotion, said “there are no words.” The first lady, Jill Biden, also said, “I truly have no words.” I have no words right now either, except the ones I have had to say over and over in the past: “Lord have mercy upon us.”

After the Passion Gospel this Sunday, we will be singing hymn #458. Because it may not be familiar to some, I am attaching this link so you can take time now to become familiar with the tune. On Sunday, you will find how appropriate the words are as we begin Holy Week, and now, after this shooting.

We will also be singing the more familiar “Passion Chorale” #168. That tune is also used for Hymn #669. Considering the horrible news from Nashville, hymn #669’s words are also timely:

It begins “Commit thou all that grieves thee and fills thy heart with care…”

It ends with a verse calling us to hope:

Hope on, then, broken spirit, hope on, be not afraid

Fear not the griefs that plague thee, and keep thy heart dismayed

Thy God in his great mercy, will save thee, hold thee fast

And in his own time grant thee, the sun of joy at last.

Our hearts are dismayed again. But while working together to reduce gun violence, we must, even with trembling hands, hold onto hope.