26 February 2017

Homily - 26 February 2017

The Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Dear brothers and sisters,

Each of us knows the truth of the words the Lord Jesus speaks today: “sufficient for a day is its own evil” (Matthew 6:34). Evil, of course, is a privation of the good; where goodness is lacking, there is evil. Because much of our days are often lacking in goodness – whether on our part or on the part of others – we experience evil throughout each day, to one degree or another. The form and degree of the evil we experience may be different for each of us, but who of us would like to experience more evil? Yes, sufficient for a day is its own evil.

Yet as often as we suffer the effects of evil, still the presence of goodness can always to be found. Most often, goodness is found in seemingly simple things, such as a budding flower or the flight of a bird (cf. Matthew 6:28, 26). Goodness is also found in things more profound, such as the witness of a faithful bishop or the realization that God loves us more tenderly than any mother can (cf. I Corinthians 4:1; Isaiah 49:14-15). This is why the Lord Jesus counsels us, saying, “do not worry about your life” because “I will never forget you” (Matthew 6:25; Isaiah 49:15). While we might forget the Lord, he never forgets us and desires that we pour out our hearts him (cf. Psalm 62:9).

There can be no doubt that Saint Damien of Moloka’i knew all too well the evils of his day, from self-centeredness and loneliness to disease and death. Still, despite all of these evils, he did not let himself be overcome with worry or anxiety, but trusted in the Lord’s love for him. This is why he said, “having Our Lord at my side, I continue always to be happy and content.” Can we say the same? Because he knew of the Lord’s closeness to him throughout each day, Father Damien encouraged others to “tell Him of your miseries, your fears, your worries, of those who are dear to you, of your projects, and of your hopes. Do so with confidence and with an open heart.”

We know intellectually of the Lord’s loving closeness to us, but we do not always allow the knowledge of his continuing presence at our sides to seep deep into our hearts. When we become so focused on ourselves that we do not recognize the Lord’s love for us, we cry out, saying, “The Lord has forsaken me” (Isaiah 49:15)! It is in these moments that the “song of sweetness” that is the Alleluia is absent from our lips.[1]

In a similar way, it will not be long before we bid farewell to the great word of joy and praise that is the Alleluia. However, when Holy Mother Church silences this great “voice that cannot die,” it is not because the Bride of Christ feels forsaken by her Lord.[2] Rather, it is because “the solemn time is coming when our tears for sin must flow.”[3] As a wise steward of the Lord’s mysteries, the Church knows that while the Alleluia is silenced for a short time on earth, “the anthem ever raised by choirs on high” continues in heaven where the hosts of heaven “sing eternally.”[4]

We close our lips to the Alleluia throughout the season of Lent so that we might express in a simple, external way our recognition and contrition for the evil of each day brought about by our lack of goodness, by our failures to love, by our sin. Even as we implore the Lord’s mercy in the confidence that he will never forget us, we beg him to grant us, by his grace, “to attain merit’s reward” (Prayer Over the Offerings). This reward is nothing less than the grace to join the ranks of the angels and saints as they gaze upon the beauty of his Face, “there to [him] for ever singing ‘alleluia’ joyfully.”[5]

As we restrain our joy in these coming days, we should beg the Lord to “bring to light what is hidden in darkness and manifest the motives of our hearts” (I Corinthians 4:5). It is only by stirring up a sincere sorrow for our sins that we will be able to truly confess our sins and then, having received the Lord’s forgiveness, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness" (Matthew 6:33). Living in this way, we will be untroubled in our devotion and while the song of Alleluia may be silenced on our lips, it will never die in our hearts (cf. Collect). Amen.

[1]Alleluia dulce carmen,” J. M. Neale, trans. In Eleanor Parker, “‘Ceasing from the voice of joy and gladness’” Aelfric’s Homily for Septuagesima,” A Clerk of Oxford, 16 February 2014.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.

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