Message: Do this in remembrance of me. Bishop-elect Daniel Mueggenborg's vocation was sparked by serving a Mass celebrated by proto-martyr Stanley Rother.
I will give this homily in English, but begin with a summary in Spanish: Voy a dar la homilia en ingles, pero comienzo con un resumen en espanol: Jesus nos dice, Hagan esto en conmemoracion mia. Este refiere a la Eucaristia, la misa, y tambien al ofrecerse la vida en servicio. Nuestro obispo-elegido Daniel Mueggenborg da un testimonio de como el ejemplo del Padre Stanley Rother inspiro su vocacion. Stanley Rother es el primer ciudadano de los estados unidos declarado un martir. Contare como el Padre Rother dio su vida en 1981 en Guatemala. La sangre de los martires es semilla de la iglesia. La vocacion de nuestro nuevo obispo Mueggenborg fue motivada por asister a una misa del Padre Rother. Hacer esto en memoria mia.
Tonight Jesus tells us, "Do this in remembrance of me." This refers to the Eucharist, the Mass, and also to offering our lives in service.
Our new bishop-elect, Daniel Mueggenborg, gave a powerful testimony about how the Mass can lead to offering one's life. In 1981 he was in his first year of college studying geology. His family asked him to serve an anniversary Mass for his uncle and aunt. Bishop-elect Mueggenborg said he felt reluctant, but finally accepted.
It turned out that the priest saying the Mass was Fr. Stanley Rother, also a native of Okarche a small town in central Oklahoma. Bishop-elect Mueggenborg said that even though he felt reluctant, maybe even a little rebellious, something about Fr. Rother captivated him: "There was spirit of profound peace and love that filled the room when he entered."
"He possessed the qualities of character that I desired most yet had not found," said Mueggenborg. "As a result of that Mass I began allowing myself to once again consider the possibility of becoming a priest."
In May of 1981 Fr. Rother returned to Guatemala where he had been a missionary for 13 years. Guatemala, along with other countries in Central America was experiencing great turmoil. His catechists and parishioners would disappear and later be found dead, their bodies showing signs of torture. Rother saw the parish radio station smashed and its director murdered. Fr. Rother himself received death threat because of his defense of native people. On the morning of July 28, two gunmen broke into the rectory. Fr. Rother threw himself at them and fought like a lion. He only had his fists. They had guns and killed him, shooting him twice in the head.
The people of Santiago Atitlan wanted Fr. Rother buried in their village. The Diocese of Tulsa reached a compromise. Before taking his body back to Okarche, they allowed his heart to be removed. His heart remains under the altar where he had served. The native people had a plaque carved with these words: "No hay amor mas grande que este, dar la vida por sus amigos." There is no greater love than this, to give one's life for his friends.
In 2015 Pope Francis officially recognized Stanley Rother as a martyr. He is the first U.S. citizen to receive that designation. Thus he is the "proto-martyr" of the United States. Archbishop Coakley of Oklahoma City has announced that the beatification ceremony for Fr. Rother will take place at the Cox Convention Center on September 23.
Back in the second century an African writer named Tertullian said, "The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church." Here in the Archdiocese of Seattle we have a new bishop-elect Daniel Mueggenborg whose vocation was sparked by serving a Mass celebrated by proto-martyr Stanley Rother.
As we celebrate Holy Thursday 2017 it's good to hear Jesus' challenge: Do this in memory of me: To participate in the Mass with devotion and to offer oneself in service to others. Do this in memory of me.
Note to homilists: You may use this homily even if you are not in the Archdiocese of Seattle but with this humorous caveat: Bishop-Elect Mueggenborg told me that when he was learning Spanish he downloaded one of my homilies. Pressed for time he didn't preview it carefully. It contained a part referring to my experience in the Archdiocese. Monsignor Mueggenborg read it then looked up and said "I guess you realize I didn't write this homily." He smiled and continued on. Perhaps it was prophetic...
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