Friday, October 6, 2017
Bishop Peter Baldacchino
Miami Auxiliary Bishop Peter Baldacchino preached this homily during the annual Blue Mass for those who work in law enforcement. The Mass was celebrated Sept. 29, 2017 at St. Patrick Church, Miami Beach.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I am truly honored to celebrate Mass today with you, our law enforcement officers. May the Lord, in this day that is so joyful for you, grant you His grace and peace – to me as well, and to everyone! The grace of being certain that He is in our midst, knocking at our door and waiting that I should open it even a little bit, in order that he should enter.
The hurricanes that have swept through Florida and the Caribbean, and whose consequences are still affecting so many of our brothers and sisters, have indeed brought to our attention the importance of our “first responders,” who, while we seek to stay safe in our homes, are themselves valiantly facing the risks that we all seek to avoid, in order to help and protect all of us.
You risk your lives for us every day and every moment. For this we thank you.
The gratitude that all of us feel when we see the assistance of a police officer — in time of need, either because of natural disaster or because of man-made calamities, violence or tragedies — explains why the Church has decided to celebrate this Blue Mass on the feast of the Holy Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. And especially under the patronage of St. Michael, who stands for strength and courage, we recognize you, women and men, who like the angels of the Catholic tradition, surround our human life with their ever-watchful care.
St. Basil says that "Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.”
In the Old Testament, angels were commissioned by God to bring to him the prayers of his people, climbing a ladder that was connecting heaven and earth, as the book of Tobit tells us and as the Patriarch Jacob envisioned in his dream. They were the ones who cared for the needs of the poor, presenting their supplications to the Most High, the One who can truly help, and they were the ones who brought back God’s response to the people.
In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus speaking to Nathaniel, a devout disciple that Jesus tells us he had previously seen under the fig tree.
This mysterious passage wants to underline a particular characteristic of this devout disciple, this Nathaniel. Many say that the fig tree is the Torah, the Word of God that gives forth very delicious fruit, something like sweet figs. We are made to understand that this Nathaniel is indeed a devout believer!
And Jesus prophesies to him, saying that “You will see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man”.
Making clear reference to Jacob's vision of a ladder connecting heaven to earth, Jesus presents himself as the new means of communication, the Way, the mountain path, the narrow road, the stairway connecting heaven and earth: Indeed, he is the meeting point between divine and human nature – both a means and a place to find God and man.
The ladder that connects heaven to earth, which connects the world of men with the divine dimension, is Jesus himself. He is the fulfilment of Jacob's dream, and he returns to the Father after his sufferings on the cross "to prepare for us a place," leaving the "field" in the hands of the Spirit!
He is the new creation that, through this Spirit, also wants to be handed on to each and every one of us.
Indeed, this Word is being addressed to all of us today, and in a very special way, to you law enforcement officers and first responders, and to your families gathered with us here today.
All the sacrifices that you do are not in vain; they speak of a higher truth, a Truth much more sublime than the one of self-gratification and personal interests. They are an image of what Jesus himself came to do among us: to give to mankind the possibility of fulfilling his highest vocation, which is to be a child of God.
But how could this be possible within a society where the utterances of the prophet Daniel, announcing an entire creation serving God, appear all the more, day after day, to be a utopia, a dream impossible to achieve without the services of you women and men in uniform, …who determinately go where we do not want to go, …who courageously do what all of us are afraid to do, …who valiantly face what we all run away from? …the violence, …the unknown, …the evil, …all of which scare us?
And who better than you, dear men and women of the police forces, can tell us about the violence and disruptive forces of evil that are present in this world of ours?
Every day you go out to fight against them: You are called to defend the weak, to protect the honest, to foster the peaceful coexistence of peoples. Each one of you has taken on the role of sentinel (of watchman), looking far and beyond to overcome imminent danger and to promote justice and peace everywhere. Indeed, you are called to be these angels within our society, those valiant protectors of our society from the evil that surrounds us.
We, the Church, also learn from you how to welcome and protect, how to intercept the fears and the very real and concrete needs of people, how to fight for justice, freedom, lawfulness, peace!
The eschatological war mentioned in today’s reading, from the Book of Revelation, is indeed a fight against this perennial evil, that attempts to destroy the divine presence (God’s presence!) within us. It is a war that Our Lord Jesus Christ has already won, and that continues to take place within our souls. The victory of Christ is freely handed over to us, so that today we too can rejoice in anticipation of our final victory in Him!
At this Mass, while we remember in a very special way those officers, your comrades, who during the past year have died in the line of duty, the Church wants to make the Kingdom of Heaven present to us here on earth; a Kingdom that is not simply a consolation to distract and alienate us from our daily challenges and sufferings, but to announce with all its strength the certainty that you (/we!) are called to: “An everlasting dominion that shall not pass away” as the Prophet Daniel declared in today’s first reading. Christ has already introduced us to this kingdom; He has already opened its door for us!
Along with our beloved brothers and sisters that have preceded us into Christ’s kingdom because of their faith, let us not be afraid of doing what God has called us to.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary watch over and support each and every one of you and assist you in your efforts. Never lose heart; remain always alert, vigilant and firmly anchored in the promise of Jesus.
While invoking Christ, continue to do your duty with utmost generosity. Countless are the people who look to you and who trust you as we all hope and pray to be able to enjoy our earthly existence in serenity, order, peace.
May God bless all of you and your families!