Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
We Arlington priests were at our annual convocation last week, half of the priests of the diocese for the first half of the week, the second half for the second. We go to a place near Emmitsburg MD, a ski resort that apparently has good prices in the summer for such meetings. We usually listen to a speaker give presentations on a certain topic. This year, a Dominican priest spoke to all the priests in the diocese on giving better homilies.
I found what he had to say rang true, it was a talk that we needed to hear as a diocesan presbyterate. I came away with a lot of good reflections, one in particular that I wanted to share with you today that I found particularly compelling.
He said that each homily must actualize Sacred Scripture as a gift that is meant especially for us, an inspired text that is able to speak to each of us in the way in which each of us needs to be answered. Each of us brings something to Mass that is real, that needs to be respected, that seeks an answer. He said—and this is the point—that the act of preaching has to be the act of giving people back their heart.
It spoke to me in a way that seemed so familiar, in a way that I believe the Gospel empowers us as adults to make sense of our lives and find God at the center. That we become thrown off center by the world, that we have our hearts stolen in so many ways by our own sin, and by the confusion and cruelty and inhumanity of the world—not to begin speaking of the absence of grace—that we encounter every day, nearly everywhere we go. Sometimes people begin to feel that God is far away, when it is really our own hearts to which we have become estranged. We are meant for better!
To get back our hearts by the unfolding of the Word of God, and then to have his body and blood literally become the life that flows in our veins. Only then can we have the courage, the confidence, to go and be true disciples. The Word of God is spoken from a loving Father: all that the Son has, the Father has given. It makes for a powerful reflection on Mothers’ Day. Isn’t this the love that gives you back your hearts, the place you can always go when all else in the passing world leaves us unsatisfied and broken? There is a love that endures.
We first come to know this love from our parents, if we are lucky. But even our parents may not have come to learn this from their parents, the brokenness of our humanity is something that can be handed for many years, unless the love of Christ enters and transforms.
Jesus speaks of his relationship in the Trinity as the relationship of himself to a parent, his Father. Of course, his Father isn’t a man (or a woman), but he reveals the relationship as one of a son to a father, the image of God and his sons and daughters. This parenthood is one of perfect love, absolute gift, constant and eternal giving of life and receiving of life, perfect joy. We can see clearly in Jesus how to be a good son, but it is not so clear how to be a good parent. So here, a perfect mother is included in God’s plan so that the relationship of parent to child is perfectly given, to give us hope as well as the reassurance of possibility. Mary is given to Jesus, and Jesus gives Mary to us in just the same way he hands over to us everything else that the Father is and has given to him. On the cross, Jesus’ heart is pierced in order to be raised. Mary is given the beautiful role of the one to whom we can always go whenever we need to get back our heart, her perfect love and welcome home is offered to each of us. It is the heart of Jesus himself, to which she gave birth, formed in youth, cared for in his greatest suffering, to whom she brings us back in her role as our Mother.
Mothers of Saint Mary, consider this incomparable role that teaches us to know Mary and approach the love of Jesus: you have always been the place we can go to get back our hearts. May mothers today learn this most exalted role as the one they best can fulfill, and bring all us children back to the love of Jesus by first revealing this love to us in our hearts. May God bless our families, especially you moms, all of you, whether you are still with us or have gone on to know the perfect love of heaven. Happy Mothers’ Day.