One of the advantages of being the one who maintains the website for the parish (of course, with the pastor’s blessing) is that I have a great deal of autonomy about what I put on the webpage. I’ve tried to make the webpage more than just an internet pointer to our parish, but truly a USEFUL resource for our parishioners, guests, and visitors. That being said, since very big in my radar is my change of assignment from parochial vicar of the wonderful parish of St. Joseph on Cabbage Hill, I submit here my good-bye homily–which by a quirk of separate calendars, is also the national celebration of Fathers’ Day.
Our readings for this weekend:
- ZEC 12:10-11; 13:1 – “and they shall look on him whom they have pierced
- PS 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9 – “My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.”
- GAL 3:26-29 – “Through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus.”
- LK 9:18-24 – “Then he said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?'”
“…and they shall look on him whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son, and they shall grieve over him as one grieves over a firstborn…On that day there shall be open to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, a fountain to purify from sin and uncleanness.” These words were written by the prophet Zecheriah, 500 years before Jesus. It had meaning to him and his contemporaries in the context of that ancient time. But it is also a prophetic oracle of a future time. To the early Christians, it was clear who the Holy Spirit was referring to: the Messiah, Jesus, the “Christ of God,” as Peter calls him in today’s Gospel. Interpreting Zechariah’s prophecy through the lens of Christian wisdom, we have a beautiful revelation: As we contemplate that day of the crucifixion—Good Friday—we do mourn with sorrow for our sins. It is for the forgiveness of our sins that Jesus allowed Himself to be offered. By our sins he was pierced: Jesus, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. And it is the Precious Blood, and the water which poured out from his pierced side, when he consummated the new covenant in His blood, that is the fountain that purifies us…it is the fountain of Divine Mercy that witnesses to us of God’s profound love for us.
That was the mission of Jesus, of God made flesh. Because God is the source of life, and sin is separation from God, and an offense against the perfect love of God, humanity was separated from the source of life, unable on our part to heal our relationship with God. The offense was (and is) our own sinful choice. But being mortal and finite/limited, we cannot make an infinite recompense for our act against God who is infinite. That is divine justice—we are separated from God, and dead in our sin. So God did something amazing. The divine justice of God is united to the divine mercy of God. The infinite God became a mortal human. Jesus, then, could make recompense on our behalf because he was one of us, but it could be an infinite recompense because he was also divine. Because he was human, he could pay the price of death, but because he was also divine, the God of the living, death had no true hold over him, and he rose from the dead in glory, freeing humanity from eternal death. The curse that the devil brought to humanity—suffering and death—was the very way that God used to free humanity from the devil—the suffering and death of Jesus. We witness to this mystery when we deny ourselves, pick up our cross daily, and follow him.
II. Father’s Day
Today we celebrate Fathers’ Day. We honor (and remember) our fathers. With the problems our culture has been experiencing with fathers unwilling or unable to fulfill their role as fathers, we at least have gained the benefit of one scientific study after another reaffirming the importance of fathers in the healthy development of children. Certainly families without fathers can thrive and be happy. And it’s not a sign of weakness even if some need extra support in the absence or loss of a father. Certainly this day may stir up experiences of loss and sadness (or absence) for some, and for you, we offer you our support and prayers.
We know instinctively that fathers are important. We know this healthy influence of good fatherhood is important for both boys and girls as they develop. Men who set a good example of what authentic masculinity looks like: how a boy ought to grow and express himself, fostering a healthy masculine integrity, and how a girl ought to grow and express herself, and the virtuous character to look for in a potential partner and father to her future children. Of course, sometimes the difficulties of life don’t give families the opportunity for the normal family structure, and they have to make due as best they can, sometimes with a surrogate father figure, and sometimes not. And to those making due the best they can, we support and pray for you as well.
As Christians, we know we have another Father to honor—the Father who is the source of all fatherhood, all authority, and all life: God, our Heavenly Father, the source and ideal of Fatherhood. “Our efforts to please Him are not precious because of how good or perfect they are; they are precious because we are precious to Him.” “We have a Father who loves us enough to teach us hard lessons, who isn’t willing just to make our lives easy—because He wants them to be meaningful.” God is the father who is always trying to bring us home. “Aside from hindering your free will, your Father will do anything to get you to heaven.” Human fathers participate in the Fatherhood of God. And so, one can see that spiritual fatherhood is in some way related to biological fatherhood, as spiritual, supernatural realities are related to physical realities. And so the priest, as spiritual father, participates in God’s fatherhood in a way that is different than the way that biological fathers participate in the same one perfect source and summit of fatherhood.
III. Final Weekend
And so, I want to take this opportunity to say that it has been an indescribable joy for me to participate in spiritual fatherhood toward you for this past year. And so I want to give you three things—a three-fold message that I give when he leaves a priestly assignment, as I do today.
The first part of this message is THANK YOU. Thank you all SO MUCH for how you have welcomed me, encouraged me, challenged me, supported me, and most important to me, helped me to love being a priest even more than I did when I arrived here. I have had some challenges that helped me to grow as a priest, from the very first weekend. Of course, thank you for the incredible graces we shared in our Wednesday series on Divine Mercy. Thank you for all the dinner invitations, the beautiful liturgies, and the way that you continue the parish tradition of taking good care of your priests. Thank you.
The second part of this message is, I’M SORRY. I’m sorry for all the ways in which I was not the priest and the person God is calling me Homily for the 10 th to be. I’m sorry for times you might have felt that I insulted, or was short-tempered, or shared in a negative spirit. I’m sorry for missed messages, unreturned phone calls, missed appointments, Masses that started late, and long homilies like this one. I’m sorry for any time you feel I did not give you my best. I’m sorry for anything I’ve said or done that has been an obstacle in your spiritual journey. I’m sorry.
And the third part of the message, PRAY FOR ME. You will continue to be in my prayers, and I ask you to continue to pray for me, in your generosity. Pray that I am more open to the graces God wants to develop in my life. Pray that I can overcome the vices and bad habits that are hurdles in my spiritual life and in my priestly ministry. Pray for me that I will always do my best, never get too business-focused, and never get involved in the ways that priests’ lives come apart. Pray, most of all, I beg you, that at the end of our personal journeys, we might all see one another in the heavenly banquet with God and the angels and saints.
And so that’s it. Happy Father’s Day. Thank you. I’m Sorry. Pray for me… And I promise, I’ll see you again. God bless you so very much.