As the 2015 Revival began on Oct. 13, everyone entering SS. Columba/Brigid Church was given a small rock inscribed with a reminder that only those without sin should cast stones.
The African-American Commission of the Diocese of Buffalo presented "Revival 2015 - Cast the First Stone" over three nights at the Buffalo church. The program included worship, music and guest speakers.
Sermons came from special guests Father Chester P. Smith, SVD, and Father Charles F. Smith, SVD, the first African-American twins to be ordained in the Roman Catholic faith in the United States. The Chicago natives, members of the Society of the Divine Word religious order, authored "Boyhood to Manhood," a rite of passage manual for African-American boys, and "My Family, Our Family," a manual for the African-American family Kwanzaa celebration.
On the opening night, Father Chester delivered a rousing sermon solo, while his brother recuperated in Florida. Father Charles could not make to Buffalo, as he had gotten sick from eating alligator at a Florida men's conference. Explaining why his other half wasn't there, Father Chester said, "I told him, 'Don't eat the alligator. You don't know who's cooking it.' But, no, he had to have that taste."
Father Smith encouraged the people present to read the Gospel of John to fully understand the context of his sermon, which dealt with an adulterous woman about to be stoned by villagers. Father Smith used this parable to address the idea of a conflict resolution strategy.
One strategy he said should be practiced is genuine love, which is not defensive, but has the power of patience.
"Genuine love is powerful. So, when you love yourself, you are a powerful person in Christ," he said. "Genuine love is not always popular, is calling us to be different. Genuine love needs a clear perspective, so you got to be humble if you want to have a clear perspective. Genuine love is not defensive, but patient. Genuine love is powerful. See, if your love is not powerful, it's going to be hard for you to forgive. Jesus' love is so hard for you that He was able to challenge people, the leaders in the community, people like us, not to cast the first stone."
The second strategy is to be humble. The congregation showed their agreement.
"You have to practice being humble. That's what this Revival is all about," Father Smith said. "If you're not humble, you want to be the first one to cast a stone."
Lastly, people need confidence in themselves. They need to know their power, which comes from being created in the image and likeness of God.
"You have to know your power," Father Smith said. "If you want to accomplish a dream, overcome an obstacle, break an addiction, or move forward, you have to start declaring it. It has to come out of your mouth. When you know your power, you know your power, you can understand that you can do all things through Christ, whose strength is within you. When you know your power, you accept yourself, you affirm yourself in Christ."
Father Smith said people cast stones today by judging and labeling others. He said it is important to follow a non-judgmental Jesus, than to conform to a crowd for popularity.
"We must write our story. You cannot allow other people who don't like you in the first place, who don't have your best interests, who are telling you this, telling you that," he said. "You cannot allow politicians to tell you this, this and that. You cannot allow evil people, even a different world view, to write your story, because if you allow other people to write your story they will write it the way they want to. So what the Word is teaching us is we have got to write our story and write it with Jesus. We will not allow anyone by any means to take away our joy, our happiness, our peace, our hope, our love."
For Helen Roddy Gray, from Blessed Trinity Parish, the message hit home. At 87 years old, she liked being reminded of the power she had.
"I thought it was really enlightening and it really uplifted me because I'm sort of by myself," Gray said. "I have nieces and nephews, but never had children. Like he was saying, I always tell myself before I go out, 'I will not be intimidated.' I'm 87 years old. If I assume it's going to happen, it's going to happen. So, my prayer is don't be intimated."
The Revival drew people from SS. Columba & Brigid and neighboring parishes from all age groups.
"It was really nice. The priest, he speaks very well and his message really got to me," said Christopher Augustin, 16, from SS. Columba & Brigid Parish in Buffalo. "It's nice seeing familiar faces again. They don't go to this parish. They go to St. Martin de Porres and other places, so it's good seeing them again."
"He covered every ground you can think of - every person, every situation. I think in our community we needed a lift," said Elise Wilson of St. Martin de Porres Parish in Buffalo. "I thought he was very down to earth, and that made it more effective. I really enjoyed it. He's unique. He's different. He has a different way of teaching about the Bible."