08 September 2012

Homily - 8 September 2012

The Twenty-third Sunday of the Year (B)

Dear brothers and sisters,

In 1947, the Lord Jesus said to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, “How it hurts to see these poor children soiled with sin … they don’t know Me – so they don’t want Me … how I long to enter their holes – their dark unhappy homes.”  But he didn’t simply express his desire to lift sinners out of their sin, he invited Mother Teresa to “Come be my victim.  In your immolation – in your love for Me – they will see Me – know Me – want Me.”[1]

In effect, Jesus asked Mother Teresa to put herself and her own desires aside and live for him alone by bringing his love to the streets of Calcutta.  He asked her to become the embodiment of his love; through her voice, her smile, and her hands, she was to make his love known to the poorest of the poor; she was to help them be rich in faith and to open their eyes to the love of Jesus Christ who became poor for them.  Through her, the poor of Calcutta were to come to know Jesus and, by knowing him in her, they were to want him and to love him.

My friends, is this not the same call that each of us has received, as well?  In the waters of Baptism and the anointing of Confirmation, we have become Christians, we have become other Christs.  We, too, must make the love of Jesus Christ known in our words, our smiles, and in our hands.  By encountering us, people should come to know Jesus and, in coming to know him in us, to want him and to love him.

Today, dear brothers and sisters, we have the profound opportunity to witness anew the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah: “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing” (Isaiah 35:5-6).  This privilege is ours because we will soon witness the rebirth of a child in the life-giving waters of Baptism, those very same waters Isaiah foretold when he declared, “Streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe” (Isaiah 35:6).

After passing with Jesus Christ from death to life, this child will be made, with us, “rich in faith and [an heir] of the Kingdom that [Jesus] promised to those who love him” (James 2:5).  This child will become one with us in the Body of Christ, which is the Church, and will, we pray, learn to follow him in all things.

N., “great indeed is the Baptism which is offered you.  It is a ransom to captives; the remission of offences; the death of sin; the regeneration of the soul; the garment of light; the holy seal indissoluble; the chariot to heaven; the luxury of paradise; a procuring of the kingdom; the gift of adoption.”[2]

After you receive the gift of new life, I will say to you, as I touch your ears and your mouth, “The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak.  May he soon touch your ears to receive his word, and your mouth to proclaim his faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father.”[3]  In this simple gesture, I will imitate Jesus Christ who touched the ears of that man as said, “‘Ephatha!’ – that is – ‘Be opened’” (Mark 7:34)!

From this day forward, this child must be open to hearing the word of God, to hearing of his love, and to hearing how we should respond to that love.  To this end, dear parents and godparents, you must see to it you live lives of authentic faith and seek the Lord above all things.  You must devote yourselves to a pursuit of holiness by reading the Sacred Scriptures and spiritual writings; by attending the Holy Mass on Sundays and holydays; by making frequent use of the Sacrament of Confession; by prayer, fasting and alms-giving; and by living your faith in a public, generous and humble manner.  If you dedicate yourselves to this pursuit, you will help each other grow in holiness and you will find the happiness your hearts’ desire.

By living the faith in a joyful manner, you will attract the attention of others who will wonder where you find your joy and they will want it, too.  If you seek to be authentic disciples – as is the task of each of us – you will be able to say to your child and to everyone who meet the same words Mother Teresa said so often: “The most important thing for us to remember is that Christ called each of us by name and that He said, ‘You are precious to Me, I love you.’  If you remember that, it makes all the difference.”[4]

The encounter with Jesus Christ and with his love changes a person; anyone who meets the Lord in a personal way can never be the same again.  This was the experience of Mother Teresa and it was the experience of the man in today’s Gospel.  This is why he was able, though he had never heard the sound of the tongues of men, to speak plainly after Jesus opened his ears.  What is it that this man said?

After with this encounter, surely he cried out, “Praise the Lord, my soul” (Psalm 146:1).  Never would he be able to forget that day when Jesus demonstrated for him his powerful words: “You are precious in my eyes and honored, and I love you;” he knew that he was wanted by the Lord (Jeremiah 43:4).

The opportunity to encounter Jesus Christ is all around us.  He is found in the Scriptures; in the community gathered in his name; in the silence of our hearts; in the Sacraments; and, above all, in the Eucharist.  To encounter him we must quiet our souls and be still.  Then, just as he took the man away from the hustle and bustle of the crowd, he will speak to us in the stillness and heal us.  He will say to us, “In your love for Me – they will see Me – know Me – want Me.”

This confidence in his love for us is what allows us to speak plainly of his love to others, to say to them, “Be strong, fear not” (Isaiah 35:4)!  May each of us, having encountered the Lord Jesus Christ and his love for us, seek to lead others to him, that they might also know the depths of his love for them.  Amen!

[1] Letter to Archbishop Perier, S.J., Corpus Christi, 1947.  In Mother Teresa: Come, Be My Light: The Private Writings of the “Saint of Calcutta.  Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C., Ed.  (New York: Doubleday, 2007), 77.
[2] St. Cyril of Jerusalem, The Protocatechesis, 16.  In St. Cyril of Jersualem: Lectures on the Christian Sacraments.  F. L. Cross, ed. (Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1951), 50.
[3] Rite of Baptism for One Child, 101.
[4] Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Instructions to the Missionaries of Charity Sisters, June 2, 1981.  In Joseph Langford, Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire: The Encounter that Changed Her Life, and How It Can Transform Your Own.  (Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, 2008), 250.

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