Saturday, October 5, 2019
Archbishop Thomas Wenski - The Archdiocese of Miami
Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily Oct. 5, 2019, at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary-St. Richard Church, which was celebrating a triple anniversary: 60 years of the establishment of Holy Rosary Parish; 50 years of the establishment of St. Richard Parish; and 30 years of the dedication of St. Richard’s church. The Mass was for the Vigil of the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
In our first reading, the prophet Habakkuk pleads, “How long, O Lord? I cry out for help, but you do not listen...” Many of us can own these words as well, for when tragedy strikes us, our faith can be shaken. We ask, as people have over the ages, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Tragedies can also try our faith. We want answers. In the reading, God answers Habakkuk:
the vision still has its time,
presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint;
if it delays, wait for it,
it will surely come, it will not be late...”
God will probably answer us also; but not necessarily on this side of eternity. But God assures Habakkuk, “...the just one, because of his faith, shall live.” But, as we wait for God to answer us, we need the patience of Job, even as we say as the apostles said to Jesus: “Lord, increase our faith.”
Now, the apostles asked Jesus to increase their faith because he had been teaching them some hard truths. He had told them that scandals would come but warned them about giving scandal. And if someone would cause “one of these little ones to sin,” it would be better “if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea.” Then he spoke about the need to forgive. “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him... And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.” Sobering words. No wonder the apostles begged: Increase our faith.
Following Jesus is not for wimps. We might think – like the apostles did – that our faith is too small. But Jesus assures that even faith the size of a mustard seed can uproot a mulberry bush – a bush with an extensive root system.
This week in Texas we saw the power of a mustard seed faith. The brother of Bothan Jean, who was shot and killed by a Dallas Police Officer, Amber Guyger, publicly forgave her and asked to hug her in court.
“I know if you go to God and ask him, He will forgive you,” he told her and wished her the best: to give her life to Christ. An amazing witness. Which if you him ask him why he did this, he might answer in the words of the servants in Jesus’ parable, that he just did what he, as a Christian, is supposed to do.
What might seem impossible becomes possible even with a mustard seed size faith.
Today, we celebrate this jubilee – or better, the jubilees – of this parish: 60 years since the Holy Rosary was established, 50 years since St. Richard’s founding and almost 10 years since your two communities were merged. In doing so, we give thanks over all these years, for the mustard seeds of faith that have been planted here in the hearts of Christ’s faithful.
In a Church that’s almost 2000 years old, 50 or even 60 years might not seem like a very long time. But here in Florida, where everything seems to have been built the day before yesterday, these are milestones worth celebrating. Jubilees are occasions for us to look back at the past with gratitude. And history, forged by fallen human beings, is always going to be a mixture of lights and shadows. That is certainly true of the history of this parish community. Yes, there have been shadows, trials and disappointments that have tested your faith but who could say that there is not much to be grateful for? As St. Paul says in Romans 5:20: “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” So, we can look to the past with gratitude; and we celebrate the present with enthusiasm. As they say, if the Lord takes us to it, he will take us through it. This parish community has survived some big challenges, thanks to mustard seed faith. And for that reason, we can look to the future with hope.
If that hope was based only on our strength, our own abilities, it wouldn’t be hope – it would be presumption. Our hope does not come from our wits or our own resources. The faith that strengthens us is not a belief in an ideology, a philosophy or an idea but belief in a person, Jesus Christ who is alive. He is our hope, “the Rock of our Salvation.”
In the Creed, we profess our faith in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. The Church is holy – not necessarily because all of us are holy – let’s just say that we are works in progress. The Church is holy because of the Spirit which has been given to us and has made us Sons and Daughters of God and brothers and sisters of Christ.
The Church exists for one reason: to preach the Gospel and call sinners to friendship in Jesus Christ.
Pope Francis likes to say the Church is like a field hospital on the field of battle, a MASH unit, where those wounded in the battles of life can be treated and healed. If that’s the case, we shouldn’t be surprised to find sinners in our midst – just as you find sick people in a hospital. I like to tell people, we call ourselves “practicing Catholics” because this life is our one-time chance to keep practicing until we get it right.
We live in a time threatened by what Pope Benedict called the “dictatorship of relativism” and what Pope Francis has called the “ideological colonialization.” The ascendant secularism of our age is changing the way people think, the way they see reality. “Relativism”, “ideological colonialization”, “secularism” are all big 50-cent words; but they describe what happens when people think that they can organize their societies or live their lives as if God doesn’t matter.
Well, Holy Rosary-St. Richard and all our parishes exist to show that God does matter. When people live as if God doesn’t matter, then the world quickly becomes like a dead, barren desert – a hopeless place, because a world without God is a world without hope. If what you do here is to show that God matters – and because God matters, every human being made in his image and likeness also matters, from the first moment of conception till natural death – then Holy Rosary-St. Richard will be an oasis where people can come and drink from the living waters of God’s grace and equip them, in the words of St. Paul in today’s second reading, “to bear our share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.”