Message: By opening to Jesus, you become part of a spiritual family. Jesus himself is the gate, the door to that enduring home.
Happy Mother's Day! At the end of Mass we will have a blessing for all moms. This includes moms with a new baby inside. If you haven't told the dad (smile), you may give a quite a surprise when you come forward!
During the Easter season I'm focusing on a theme important to everyone, but especially young parents: the journey of hope. We need hope to keep going. All of us, of course, have certain hopes - what Pope Benedict refers to as "greater and less hopes."* We hope for things like financial security, health, a "soul mate," a legacy, a better world for our children.
The question, however, is: Does a person have a great hope? - A hope that sustains the whole of life? That great hope can only come from God. You know, we have made great advances in the battle against physical pain, but (as Pope Benedict has pointed out) mental suffering has increased in recent decades. In spite of our abundance, in spite of almost unlimited options, we experience an underlying anxiety, a certain misery.
Two weeks ago we saw that Jesus offers a remedy for misery. The remedy for misery is mercy. "Peace be with you," says Jesus. "Do not be afraid." In our journey to hope - to the great hope - the first step is to open ourselves to Jesus, to his Divine Mercy. That leads to a second step: When we open ourselves to Jesus, we connect not only with him, but with every other believer.
I explained this in the homilies over the past three weeks, beginning with Easter Sunday. You can actually find them online and download them to your computer or iPod. One guy told me that he listens to my homilies before he goes to bed - and that he has never slept better!
Well, I do invite you to come with me on this journey of hope. Today I want to further explore our connection with Jesus and with others who believe in him. In the Gospel Jesus speaks about that connection: "I am the gate for the sheep," he says. When we enter through him we become members of a family of believers.
All of us belong to some kind of family. Pastor Rick Warren writes, "Our families on earth are wonderful gifts from God, but they are temporary and fragile, often broken by divorce, distance, growing old and inevitably, death." We know that sadness and on Mother's Day such sadness can be particularly intense. But it should not lead us to despair. Pastor Warren continues:
"Our spiritual family - our relationship to other believers - will continue throughout eternity. It is a much stronger union, a more permanent bond, than blood relationships."
Belonging to a spiritual family does not happen magically. It involves God's grace and our response. The response requires time, work and sacrifice. Here at St. Mary of the Valley, I have been inviting parishioners to a Stewardship of Time - a discipline of daily prayer and then to offer small "javelin-prayers" during the day. Two weeks ago we initiated all-night Eucharistic Adoration. About 80 people signed up and it has already brought great blessings to individuals, families and our overall parish. How about you, my brother, my dear sister? Would you consider an hour of prayer before Jesus, present in the Blessed Sacrament? Come as you are. Bring your Bible, your rosary, your notebook, even your iPad or iPhone. My young priest friends have apps for the Liturgy of Hours and other prayers. The only rule is to give the gift of silence to those with you in the Adoration Chapel.
This Sunday I want to offer another prayer opportunity. Many people expressed an interest in making a retreat. In the chairs you will see a booklet for a "Do-It-Yourself Retreat" called "33 Days to Morning Glory." I've wanted to make this retreat for a long time. It has a reflection for every day and if you begin with me now, you can complete it on June 13 - the Feast of St. Anthony of Padua. Take home one of the free booklets. It will become a beautiful part of our journey to hope.
As I mentioned, hope does not come magically. St. Peter refers to patient suffering. All of us - perhaps especially moms - experience suffering. Next week I will address the role of suffering in the journey to hope. I want to explore with you why Jesus says, "Do not let your hearts be troubled." Is it just a pious thought or is it something we can live even in the midst of suffering, "Do not let your hearts be troubled." But that's for next week.
For today remember: By opening oneself to Jesus, to his mercy, you connect with every believer and you become part of a spiritual family. Jesus himself is the gate, the door to that enduring home. Because of Jesus, we can pray:
*In Spe Salvi he writes:
Day by day, man experiences many greater or lesser hopes, different in kind according to the different periods of his life. Sometimes one of these hopes may appear to be totally satisfying without any need for other hopes. Young people can have the hope of a great and fully satisfying love; the hope of a certain position in their profession, or of some success that will prove decisive for the rest of their lives. When these hopes are fulfilled, however, it becomes clear that they were not, in reality, the whole. It becomes evident that man has need of a hope that goes further. It becomes clear that only something infinite will suffice for him, something that will always be more than he can ever attain.
Let us say once again: we need the greater and lesser hopes that keep us going day by day. But these are not enough without the great hope, which must surpass everything else. This great hope can only be God, who encompasses the whole of reality and who can bestow upon us what we, by ourselves, cannot attain.
**St. Ambrose says, " Human life, because of sin ... began to experience the burden of wretchedness in unremitting labor and unbearable sorrow." Pope Benedict cites St. Ambrose in Spe Salvi:
Perhaps many people reject the faith today simply because they do not find the prospect of eternal life attractive. What they desire is not eternal life at all, but this present life, for which faith in eternal life seems something of an impediment. To continue living for ever —endlessly—appears more like a curse than a gift. Death, admittedly, one would wish to postpone for as long as possible. But to live always, without end—this, all things considered, can only be monotonous and ultimately unbearable. This is precisely the point made, for example, by Saint Ambrose, one of the Church Fathers, in the funeral discourse for his deceased brother Satyrus: “Death was not part of nature; it became part of nature. God did not decree death from the beginning; he prescribed it as a remedy. Human life, because of sin ... began to experience the burden of wretchedness in unremitting labor and unbearable sorrow. There had to be a limit to its evils; death had to restore what life had forfeited. Without the assistance of grace, immortality is more of a burden than a blessing”. A little earlier, Ambrose had said: “Death is, then, no cause for mourning, for it is the cause of mankind's salvation”
From Archives (Fourth Easter - Year A):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies
Podcasts of homilies (website of my niece, Sara)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Fr. Brad's Homilies: great listening - I particularly enjoyed his series on the seven sacraments
letter from Archbishop Sartain: "Stephanie gave me a medal and a necessary lesson in discipleship. With the spontaneity, freedom, and love of a child of God, she taught me something invaluable about my need for detachment. Not clinging to something precious to her, something that signaled the height of her personal accomplishments, she freely gave – and her face radiated joy. Do I so freely give of myself, so joyfully surrender my attachments?"
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru
KRA's and SMART Goals (revised May 9, 2014)