To my fellow Pilgrims, it was such a joy to be able to celebrate Mass with all of you in those incredible places.
I was trying to see which Homilies I had posted and which ones I missed, but decided simply to post all of them here together (too tired to go through all of these posts again!) Thanks for asking for them to be posted. I appreciate all your kind and generous support. (Just a reminder, these are “drafts” I tend to go off page when preaching)
God Bless – (The readings for each day can be found at http://www.usccb.org – just click on the appropriate day on the calendar)
SATURDAY – March 9, 2013 given at the Church of St. Agnes, Rome
A writer had a dream in which she visited Hell. To her surprise it wasn’t like the Hell she had pictured at all.. She was led along a labyrinth of dark, dank passages, from which there were many doors leading to a number of cells. And each of these cells was almost like a chapel – they were each identical. The central piece of furniture in each cell was an altar, and before each altar knelt sickly, weakly, greeny-gray ghostly figure in prayer and adoration
“Who are they worshipping?” the writer asked her guide –
“Themselves” was the reply – this is pure self-worship… They are feeding on themselves and their own spiritual vitality in a kind of self-spiritual cannibalism… That’s why they look so sickly and emaciated.”
The writer was appalled and saddened by row upon row of cells with their non-communicating inmates, spending eternity in solitary confinement, themselves first, last and the only object of worship.
Thomas Merton once said “Humility is absolutely necessary if one is to avoid acting like a baby all one’s life. To grow up, in fact, means to become humble, to throw away the illusion that I am the center of everything and that other people exist to provide me comfort and pleasure.”
As we gather on this first day of this Lenten pilgrimage, this Gospel seems a perfect starting point. A call to embrace the humble, God-centered, faith of the tax collector we just heard about. And as we begin our visits to Churches, Cathedrals, Basilicas, we might find that call to humbleness a bit distracting in such – well – extravagantness.
Yet, the difference is that when we view these places as places that are meant to do the exact opposite of our writers night in hell, where these holy sites call us to look up, to look outside of ourselves… to see that focus of worship isn’t us but God alone – the adoration belongs to Jesus Christ our King, our Supreme Shepherd, we are drawn into the beauty of what faith does for us creatures- brings life, creativity, joy.
As we walk together these days in the earthly home of our faith, we are privileged to be here at a historic time… and the eyes of the world are fixating in the hype of Papal-palooza (Cardinals gone wild?) We are in a sense being entrusted with this call to prayer… That our next Holy Father, our Cardinal-electors entrusted with that sacred task, that each and every one of us who is blessed to be called “Christian” may embrace the humble, God-centered faith of the tax-collector from today’s Gospel. Drawing us beyond our own sense of self and recognized the joy of being a beloved son and daughter of a Heavenly Father who is the source of all meaning and happiness in our lives.
FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT – March 10, 2013 given in the Catacombs of Rome
During the air war against Great Britain in 1940, the beautiful Gothic cathedral at Coventry was leveled. The congregation of the cathedral raised up in the ruins a cross made of two charred beams of wood. On the cross they inscribed the words: Father forgive. – Two words, not three. It’s significant that they ommitted the word “them”. They might have said “forgive those who did this horrible crime” but they didn’t. Father forgive. That eloquent prayer is limited neither to a people, nor a place, nor a time. It is written in the present tense, the active voice, forgiveness is a continuing plea, a constant process that embraces every time and people. The ruined cross is a poignant reminder of our human condition: We are all guilty of inflicting hurt and pain on others, we are all so absorbed with ourselves and our own needs that we are oblivious to the anguish and despair faced by others. We are all in need of forgiveness.
Coventry Cathedral has been rebuilt, but to enter the new structure, visitors must walk through the bombed out ruins of the original building, passing the place where the high altar once stood and where a charred cross now stands with the prayer of every generation: Father forgive.
Forgiveness and reconciliation are the cutting edge of the Gospel of Christ: To be a faithful disciple of Jesus is to be dedicated to the hard work of reconciliation. As the cross at Coventry reminds us, it is a work that is neither limited to a time nor place, nor conditioned on any set of circumstances, nor offered only to certain individuals and people. The work of forgiveness demands facing our culpability in hurting others, as the prodigal son must do in the midst of the pig sty, it requires our putting aside our own hurts and resentments for the ultimate goal of being reunited with those whom we are separated, which the older brother has great difficulty doing; and it calls for the balancing of reconciliation and healing rather than vengeance and punishment, the difficult path that the father walks between his two sons. May we dedicate ourselves to the hard work of the Coventry prayer: to forgive without vengeance, to humbly work to bring healing to those we have hurt, and to restore to hope and dignity those who have suffered at our hands.
MONDAY, March 11, 2013 given at the Basilica of St. John Lateran
A long, long time ago, a traveler journeyed all over the world – meeting gurus, and religious leaders from all different faiths as he longed to find God. He came to one village that seemed to be a place of peace and tranquility. In the heart of that village was a monastery, so the traveler entered where he met an elderly monk and said to him “I really like it here, and I’d love to stay – but before I do, I need to know – does your God work miracles?”
The monk responded – it all depends on what you think a miracle is. There are those who say that a miracle is when God does the will of the people, but we say here that a miracle is when people do the will of God.
Today’s Gospel takes place right after Jesus had performed his first miracle where he changed water into wine at the Wedding feast of Cana. That and other wonders, other preachings and teachings he had made have created quite a stir. So much so that this royal official in his desperate love for his dying child, he pushes aside all of the protocols and stature of his royal position, the likely criticism his superiors and possible repercussions on his career – and seeks out this controversial Jesus, begging – BEGGING Jesus help…
Interestingly before the “happy ending” is a point that we cannot fail to miss – Jesus says with a combination of resignation and sadness, that the signs he works are manifestations of the love of God that is already in their midst.
Jesus works miracles not out of any craving for the adulation of the masses but out of a limitless, extraordinary sense of compassion, a deep love for his brothers and sisters especially those in crisis or pain. The wonders he works are not for his own glory but for the glory of the Father, to reawaken mankinds faith and trust in God’s love for them.
During this season of Lent, may Jesus’ spirit of humility mark our prayers and the “miracles of charity and generosity we work: that our families and communities may be restored to hope and trust in the God who loves them through the “miracles” we work for them.
THURSDAY, MARCH 14 given at the Basilica of St. Mary Major, Rome
One of the things that really stood out last year (as well as this time) visiting Rome was seeing how many creative geniuses, master artists seemed to not hold not even the slightest bit back. We can see these absolutely breathtaking frescos, magnificent paintings, spectacular sculptures – and simply marvel at the craftsmanship, the vision of these gifted people and stand in awe as we see these lasting examples of people who used every last ounce of what God gave them. Just look around us, it seems to shout that reality, doesn’t it?
While we might not be a Rafaelle or a Michaelangelo (As my 7 year old niece told me a few weeks ago “I don’t even know how to color”) we’re not suppose to compare ourselves with them in the first place. That’s the problem. Too often we get fixated on comparing ourselves and ende up envying others gifts and fail to recognize how gifted, how talented, how many abilities and blessings each of us has been given – not for our own satisfaction and happiness but to use to complete the work of creation begun by God.
Whether we are effective managers, healing listeners.
Whether we possess great material weatlth or vast resources of strength and perseverance,
whether our greatest attribute is a sharp mind or a ready smile,
whether our gifts are best suited to the computer or the tractor,
we have countless opportunities to use whatever we have and are to bring God’s peace, healing, forgiveness and compassion to whatever corner of God’s kingdom we will find ourselves.
In today’s Gospel Jesus says “THESE VERY WORKS WHICH I PERFORM TESTIFY ON MY BEHALF THAT THE FATHER HAS SENT ME”
The “Testimony” of our faith before the world is not the extent of our portfolios and resumes but in our faithfulness to reveal God’s presence around us; Christ will be our advocate before the Father not because of our words, but because of the works we do to bring God’s reign to harvest.
FRIDAY, March 15 – given at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Tomb of Blessed John Paul II
The time is getting nearer for Jesus’ crucifixion. This gospel reading shows the tension that is mounting for Jesus, his disciples, and the Jews who were trying to find evidence to kill Him.
In this scene Jesus cried out in the temple area where he was teaching and said, “You know me and also know where I am from. Yet I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true.”
“I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.”
Jesus has clarity of vision. He knows his mission. He knows he is God-Man. His whole earthly life has prepared Him for what is about to happen in the next two weeks (according to our Christian calendar). He takes us with Him…on His way…with his clear vision…teaching us what life is all about.
Isn’t that what continues to draw us to this Tomb of Blessed Pope John Paul II? 8 years after his death, we’re still inspired by his life’s work and witness including his illness and death which all gave us a living witness of Jesus Christ himself. John Paul II had clarity of vision with Christ as his focus and we still love him because of that.
As we come to the end of our pilgrimage, each of us coming here with different hopes and prayers, each of us at different points on our own faith journey, hopefully this week has helped bring some focus to the questions we came here with. Even though our eyes may be clouded by not fully understanding our individual mission – or not quite sure of how to carry out our individual mission to its fullness….Jesus continues to take us with Him. He shows us His human distress in moving forward to complete the mission for which He came.
So how could it be any different for us? Why are we sometimes surprised that we are “distressed” in trying to figure out the way to fully live our own unique mission? When people do not understand what we are doing or want to interpret what we are doing with their intentions rather than our own…..Why are we surprised? Jesus shows us the same thing happened to Him as He journeyed to complete his mission/His crucifixion …. And on to His resurrection.
Let us pause today and spend some time with Jesus “in His distress.” Let us thank Him for continuing to be “the Way” and for letting us share in His distress as He accomplished His mission for us.
Thank you Father Jim for you ministry during this very special pilgrimage. It was awesome.