Saint Mary of the Angels homilies and reflections

Homily, "Be Strong in Faith", 7th Sunday after Easter, Fr. Ken Hughes, SJ

Sunday Easter VII C   5/12/13

St. Mary of the Angels

Acts 7:55-60;  Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20;  John 17:20-26


My Brothers and Sisters,


John begins his Gospel today with these words: “Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed.”  It is John’s way of saying that Jesus is looking at his Father and looking into his Father -- looking deep into the mind and heart of God. What He sees there is that his Father’s deepest desire for us is that we all may be one as the Father and Jesus are one.  Twice, Jesus speaks of that oneness, and also prays that the love with which the Father loves Jesus may be in all of us, and that He Himself may dwell in us.  The whole emphasis is on oneness and love: the oneness and love of God, our oneness and love with God, and our oneness and love for one another.  And Jesus is emphasizing this oneness and love for us, his mystical body, just a few hours before his own physical body will be battered and broken, battered by whips and thorns, broken by nails and lance.  But, at this moment, Jesus and the Father are looking beyond this battered and broken body of Jesus to the oneness and love of all people dwelling together in God.


The body of Christ is still battered and broken in this world, from Boston to Baghdad, from Newtown to Damascus, from West Texas to Dhaka.                     And Jesus, speaking for his Father, still pleads for a oneness and a love based on our dwelling, abiding, remaining in God, who is Love.


A dozen years ago, on 9/11, when, as a nation we suffered our first terrorist attack, most of the world embraced us with compassion, but we blew off their goodwill by fabricating a war as we invaded Iraq and Afghanistan.


Five months ago, with the Newtown tragedy, so much of the world wept with us for the loss of our children.  But, with the Government unable to pass sensible gun control laws, our friends shrug their shoulders and say, “You don’t really care about your children’s safety, do you?” 


Now, we have the bombing at the Boston Marathon.  Because the whole world was watching this special event, millions witnessed the bombing, and once again, there was an immediate outpouring of love and compassion for us, the people of Boston.  And via CNN, the world shared with us the tension of the unknown, the subsequent violence, the eerie stillness of a locked down city, the long waiting, and, when the drama ended, felt with us a wave of relief.


Everyone here and abroad applauded:

  the courage of the responders,

  the compassion of bystanders and neighbors,

  the competency of EMT’s, doctors, nurses, and our magnificent hospitals,

  the cooperation – not perfect, as we have come to understand --between such a wide variety of medical and police personnel.


We witnessed the strong heart of Boston. Yet I feel compelled to ask: but, where is the soul of Boston?


When the drama ended, what appeared on CNN were people shouting, “USA!, USA!”  The logos: “B Strong,” and “Boston Strong” quickly followed. Be strong in what?  I don’t hear, “Be strong in faith,” or “Be strong in love.”  Faith and love belong to the soul.  There are more than hints that the Muslim community feels scrutinized and intimidated. When I picked up Time magazine to read its story on the tragedy, I found that there was no story, and the feature article focused on the tension between maintaining both liberty and security. And, most recently, with both Boston and Massachusetts refusing to bury the battered and broken body of Tamerlan, and the business community hungry for its lost money, what do all these together say about the soul of the City of Boston?  Was Dzhokhar right when he emailed: “Aint no love in this city”?


I don’t believe that, nor do you, but, I can’t help but contrast The Boston Marathon Tragedy with the Norway Tragedy of July 22, 2011 when 77 people, many young, were killed by a lone gunman.  Physically, I was much closer to the Norway bombing than to the Boston bombing, but emotionally my ties with the Boston Marathon go way back to childhood when my dad took my brother and me by the “T” each year to cheer  the great Clarence De Marr and Boston’s own Johnny Kelly.  But, after the Norway Tragedy, my emotions were more strongly moved as I witnessed a nation coming close together, joining in prayer, embracing the Muslim community, affirming its commitment to peace and calling one another to a stronger bond of love.  At the Copley Square memorial I saw many Red Sox caps and sneakers and American flags – all good and fitting, -- but, at the Oslo memorial I saw a huge carpet of flowers and many, many candles   And you may remember that I shared with you the words of a young girl survivor, “If one man, out of hatred, can cause so much destruction, think of what all of us together can do out of love!” That nation and that young girl were proclaiming today’s Gospel:  that we all may be one and that the love which the Father has for Jesus may be in all of us.


So, where is the soul of Boston?  Our courage and compassion, our competency and cooperation are wonderful gifts to be celebrated, -- and we do!  But, do we stop there?  I would hope that, as a city, we could do some soul searching.   Yes, there is anger and fear to be expressed and grief to be felt, but, most deeply, there is a summons to reach out and be more loving to one another. For a wheel to move forward we know that the individual spokes must meet at the center and be connected at the rim.  So, too, if we are to move forward spiritually as a city, we must be connected to God at the center and to one another at the rim. Only love can do this.  Let us listen, therefore, to today’s invitation from Revelation:  “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.”  We, the hearer say, “Come.”  And together we all say, “Come, Lord Jesus,” so that acting as one  in Jesus we may help our city reveal to the world her soul as well as her heart.

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