HOMILY & IDEAS

I am traveling up and down the East Coast this weekend for a wedding of a friend; however, I wanted to post something that might be of use during this weekend when words will be so important. I hope that it may be of some help.

I suspect that the Mass attendance in all of the churches at which we minister will increase this weekend. People will naturally feel the need to be together, to pray, to worship, to feel the presence of the sacred, to feel the comfort of God and to find hope.

I believe that it will be very important to preserve a good deal of silence in our liturgies and not to make anything feel rushed. The faithful will want time and space. Some well placed pauses and room for meditation and reflection will be valuable to the faithful. Allow the Spirit the time and the space to blow where it will.

I believe that the two biggest questions that will be on the minds of the faithful are: 1) Where is/was God in all of this? And 2) What do I do with my feelings of anger and the desire for revenge?

So much can be written in response to these questions; but people will need images more than words this weekend. The two images of Friday and Saturday in the Church are the images of the exultation of the Cross and Our Lady of Sorrows. The Images for this weekend are the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son.

Perhaps all of these images could be employed to deal with the questions mentioned above.

Comparing the cross and the national tragedy this Tuesday may be an option one may take to shed light on where God was in this act of hate this past week. Both events include unimaginable suffering, both events include the unjust suffering and death of an individual or individuals who were innocent. Both events include the mourning of those who loved the individual or individuals who died. Both events left them stricken deeply with grief and emptiness. Both events still leave us with many questions. This is why it is called the Paschal mystery and this is why the largest manhunt in the history of the world is underway.

However, one event had everything to do with the will of God and a mysterious and profound expression of love that ultimately redeems all of humanity. The other event has nothing to do with the will of God and everything to do with the free will of human beings. God has created each and every one of us special, unique, beautiful, and in His image. What we choose to do with these attributes is in accord with our Free will choices. It is against the divine attributes OF God FOR God to will the senseless, horrific and tragic deaths of those whom he brought into this world out of His Love.

Rather, this tragic event has to do with the free will of human beings. The same free will with which His creations have been operating for millennia to build the Kingdom of God here on earth by being instruments of His love IS the SAME free will which terrorist employ to execute acts of hate and destruction. We are not puppets on strings. We are vessels of potentiality in whom God delights when we fully actualize this potentiality with acts of love and concern.

Still, I know how the story of the cross ended despite the word -- Mystery -- within the phrase -- the Paschal mystery. I know how the story of the national tragedy will end too.

Regarding the cross, suffering is conquered by joy, death is conquered by life, darkness is conquered by light, crucifixion is conquered by resurrection, hate is conquered by love.

This is how the story of the national tragedy will end too. This is not because it had anything to do with the will of God; but rather because the love of God in the midst of tragedy -- the love of God that burns within us and seeks to actualize our loving potentiality as instruments of His love -- will overcome any oppressive force in this world. It is operating in superhuman ways in the bodies and souls of rescue workers, volunteers, care givers, and in every loving person on the face of the earth. The free will choices of a handful of people who operated out of hate, in the end, will be blinded by the light and love of millions upon millions of individuals who will continue to choose to live IN and WITH the light of God.

Nothing can keep us from the love of God if we choose to face and embrace that love.

My thoughts also turn to Mary who stands at the foot of the cross in sorrow on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Sorrows. Faithful? Yes. Holy? Yes. Human? Yes. Mary mourned deeply. She was filled with grief, questions, and emptiness. Her Son was unjustly crucified. We read of no deep and profound theological discourses on the Theology of the Cross in the gospel accounts of Mary at the cross. We now stand with Mary. Mary stands with us. We have questions. We hurt. We will also choose to continue to trust in a God who is the source of all love and who will have the last word in all matters and that last word will be Love.

Nothing can keep us from the love of God.

Our images this weekend are of the lost sheep, lost coin and lost sheep. Perhaps an image to reflect upon in this story is the patience and perseverance of God. The shepherd seeks for as long as it takes to find the sheep. The woman sweeps for as long as it takes to find the coin. The father waits and watches for as long as it takes for the son to return. Our God is patient. Our God waits and longs for sinners to repent. Our God rejoices when we choose reconciliation.

Perhaps it may be good to differentiate vengeance from justice. Vengeance seeks a swift and equally forceful (and perhaps hateful) eye-for-an-eye response. It is pure retaliation. Justice methodically seeks out those who are responsible for acts of injustice. Justice repairs the misnomer that acts of injustice can and will be tolerated. Justice preserves morality and virtue. Sometimes justice requires great patience to seek out the unjust.

We pray for the world that it exercises the divine patience that we see in the parables this weekend as it seeks justice. We walk, we watch, we sweep with great diligence but we pray for the patience to find exactly what or whom we are looking for and to enact justice to preserve justice. God bless America.

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