About our Pastor:
Born and raised in Seattle, Fr. Joseph Altenhofen holds degrees in psychology from the University of Washington and a Masters of Divinity and Sacred Baccalaureate from Mundelein Seminary. In addition to serving as pastor to Sacred Heart, he's also chaplain for the Newman Center on the campus of Western Washington University.
Weekly Reflection - 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 17, 2017
When I was younger we had a video packed with over 6 hours of old cartoons. There wasn't any real rhyme or reason as to which toons made the cut; it had everything from Bugs Bunny to old-school Superman shorts. One of our favorites was Dinky Duck. Dinky seemed to be a catch-all character for many story forms throughout the ages. The episode that sticks in my mind the most tells the story of Dinky when he is a young duck and is afraid to swim. Mama duck can’t get him in the water so eventually he is sent to the wise old owl to try and find a remedy for what plagues him. The owl’s answer to the quandary is a “skyhook” which is basically just a crooked stick that sort of hooks at the end. The theory is that the hook catches in the sky and protects Dinky from sinking in the water which eliminates his fear and allows him to conquer his troubles.
Of course the remedy works like a charm and Dinky is soon cruising all the ponds and rivers in sight, that is until his skyhook slips out of his hands and leaves Dinky on his own. What’s been obvious to the viewer from the beginning is that the “skyhook” is only helpful as a mental crutch. Dinky is soon forced to recognize he must conquer his fears for real, which tells that the moral of the story is it’s important to believe in yourself. I have found this story helpful in my ministry as I have often found myself in the role of “skyhook”, either as a spiritual companion, life guru, or moral compass. The trouble is that I have never able to maintain such a role and found that I would frequently make a mistake, or simply not be around, in the person’s time of need and fall short which would leave the person in the lurch.
People find great comfort in having something or someone to rely on in their time of need but more often than not these remedies get in the way, much like it did for Dinky. At first I took it personally and felt that I had let people down, but soon came to understand that the mission of Jesus is to eliminate all our crutches so as to increase our freedom. With this understanding firmly in place I found renewed hope and realized it’s also true for others. I have come to see that I can often be as much of a roadblock to people’s salvation as I am a help if I’m not careful, so sometimes screwing up can be just what people actually need. I tell you this first of all in case you find yourself in the place of Dinky, but also because you may find yourself in the place of the “skyhook” and let someone else down. Don't worry, in the end Jesus is all anyone really needs and he never fails us.
Fr. Joseph Altenhofen
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