September 20, 2011 A.D.
Homily from Fr. Madden, Ireland in Medjugorje
This morning, I am sure many of you, like me, had the pleasure and indeed the privilege of listening to one of the visionaries, Ivanka, who among other things made it clear to us that the Mother of God Herself, asked us to continue to reassure us and those we represent here this morning – our families, our communities, our friends of the reality of everlasting life with Her Son in glory in Heaven. For She, our Divine and Beautiful and Devout Mother will greet each one of us as we enter that beautiful home of ours and say welcome home. If you have come to Medjugorje for any other reason than that, you are missing the point. I offer you an opportunity during this homily and Holy Mass and the rest of your pilgrimage then, to really turn your life over to Christ in a total of way of trusting everything that you brought with you as burden, everything that you brought with you as concern, everything that you brought with you on behalf of your families, friends and communities as issues to be dealt with. Leave them here in this Mass. Put them in the chalice while it is being brought up for the Eucharist and leave them with Christ and prepare yourselves for the only thing that matters – Everlasting Life.
Ivanka also said this morning how short our life is. I want to give you the story of one death that identifies with that, which shows that always in death, even though there is pain, our God is forever creating something beautiful and something new. This is the week of 9/11. For those friends here from the United States and indeed for all of us, that was probably the most horrendous week in our lifetime, when the most unbelievable event happened in the most developed nation in our world. And the vulnerability of our humanity was exposed in an incredible ugly manner. And at the same time, everything of meaning and power and joy and hope grew out of that enormous tragedy. The first reading this morning beautifully read for us tells in no uncertain terms, if you are raised with Christ, seek what is above – straight down the middle, as always, from St. Paul. When we were baptized, we can remove that if, and we can say instead, because you were baptized, you have been raised with Christ – seek what is above. Where Christ is seated at the right hand of God, I can add, waiting for you and waiting for me. Think of what is above and not what is on earth because you have died. It is already done. You are dead. How exciting. Lie back and get it over with. (laughter) You have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Now that is the message this morning. Do you believe that? Do you believe that death is the beginning for you and me – not the end? Do you believe that death is the beginning and not the end for everybody? That answers the question of St. Paul and if any of you still doubt that, Jesus in the beautiful Gospel which we hear so often this morning from Luke, it is also in Matthew, gives us a prescription for living that leans entirely on the goodness of God and the mercy of Jesus. We call it the Beatitudes. You could not get a better prescription for getting up every morning and getting on with the life that we have to prepare for real life. And that is what the call is, to take the Gospel seriously. This week in Medjugorje for all of you and me is a heightened moment of grace. Don’t doubt that. Mary is already working hard on your heart and mine. Let Her do it. She is a wonderful Mother. Don’t be afraid to lean on Her and say Mother, I can’t get it. Give it to me. You already have it. You have been baptized in the death of Christ. You have been raised with Him. You are coming to live with Him eternally.
The story that might identify what I want to share with you is about a rather young woman in her 50’s of enormous faith in the power and the love of Jesus Christ and had St. Theresa of Lisieux as her principle advocate going through her journey in life. In 1999, just over twelve years ago, she got cancer and it was a very vigorous form cancer. It ran through her body and sadly on Halloween, the 31st of October, as the children were gathering outside of her door, shouting trick or treat, she died from cancer. Her husband was devastated by her death, went to her grave site for her burial in a total daze, totally unconvinced of any good God and in fact, angry, angry, angry that God would take such a beautiful woman and a gifted wife for him and leave him absolutely devoid of meaning in his life. As her body was lowered into the grave, he spoke the following words aloud, unintentionally. “Mary, you were the joy of my heart. I will never smile again.” And then something deep inside him uttered words that he didn’t himself really hear, but his sister-in-law heard him. He said, “This love is so strong, it cannot die. Maybe someway God can use it in the future.” His sister-in-law was a nun, and like most nuns couldn’t mind her own business. (laughter) Instead of going home and getting on with her prayer life, she went back to the United States to the Diocese of Thibodaux, a break away diocese of the great Archdiocese of New Orleans, where that woman and her husband had lived a life working as lay missionaries. And the nun said to her bishop that (the woman’s) husband may become a priest. We should get him. Three months later, that bishop out of the clear blue sky sent an email to this fellow and said, “I heard about what happened at the funeral. I just ordained a widower older than you. Consider my diocese. Come over and talk to me.” That husband was me.
…I am only giving you an illustration. I answered the email in language not to be repeated in church. And then my secretary modified it and sent it, saying get away from me. I want nothing to do with it. To make a long story short, I was ordained at home in Thibodaux in 2004, by the grace of Almighty God and the intercessory love of my wife Mary, from the Kingdom of Heaven where Her Mother Mary brought her home and said, “The love you had for him, I will put to work. I won’t let that fellow go off in his self-pity.” I was dragged out of my weakness. I was dragged out of my self-pity and my pride, which made me want to be the center of my pity, having everybody feeling sorry for me. At 54 years of age I entered the seminary. I was handed a pile of books, and I thought the whole place was gone mad. But our God has a sense of humor which we will never match. That is the second part of my message this morning. Trust Jesus, for you are dead in Him. And because every moment of your breathing human life you are coming more and more and more out of the womb of sin and the womb of anxiety and the womb of pain to be born anew into a beautiful fullness of life. And those you may leave behind you in pain, and those of you suffering in pain now who already like me have been left behind – trust Jesus. God the Father has something in store for you even yet. Begin to trust anew. Remember the beautiful words of the prophet Jeremiah, Chapter 25, verses 11- 14, “I know when (this is God the Father speaking)I know when the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare not for woe. When you come to me, I will be there for you. When you turn to me with all your heart, I will listen to you and give you what you need.” If we could only make that our message going home, Mary would jump for joy in Heaven right now.
In a few moments we will bring up the bread and wine into this Holy Mass. Now, the highest prayer for every Catholic is the moment of the sacrifice and sacrament of the Eucharist. Place your concerns and your anxieties on the paten and in the chalice and leave them to Jesus. Ask Mary to give you the beginnings of new life when you walk out of this church, because that is the calling for all of us. We, when we bring up the gifts, offer up our death. At the consecration, you will see Jesus Christ. We all can hear Him, you won’t see a moving cloud or the word peace written in the sky…But you are at every Mass, Jesus Himself appears. He is already in your midst and in our midst as the congregation gathers. He is already in the spoken Word of the Gospel that you have just been fed by Father Leo. And He is going to appear physically under the appearance of bread at the consecration. That is the moment of your resurrection. That is when you make up your mind that at that moment your life begins. Everything before now, leave it behind. Leave it to Jesus. Don’t forget it, don’t bury it, but leave it to Jesus. He knows everything you need, and He is the answer to everything you need. What did He say He was: “The Way, the Truth and the Life.” What more do you want? You have it all there. Start for the way, main course the truth, deserve the life. And when you recognize Him this morning, in this heightened moment of grace, you recognize Him in the breaking of the bread, as the Lamb of God, you have just placed one foot in Heaven. You are already half way home. God is good and all the time. May He be praised and glorified now and forever and ever. Amen.