Saint Mary of the Angels homilies and reflections

Homily, Aug 28, 2011, 22nd Sunday of Ord Time, "Hurricane Irene and Goodbye", Fr. Kenneth Hughes


St. Mary of the Angels

Sunday OT 22 A 8/28/11

Jeremiah 20:7-9; Romans 12:1-2; Matthew 16:21-27

As Hurricane Irene brushes by us, I have found myself repeating the refrain from the hymn, "How Can I keep from Singing?" (And John will play that hymn at the Offertory.) The refrain is:

"No storm can shake my inmost calm,

While to that rock I’m clinging.

Since Love is Lord of heaven and earth,

How can I keep from singing?"

Hurricane Irene is bringing our summer season to a dramatic end.

It has not been an easy summer.

Political posturing in the U.S. has been particularly divisive and destructive.

The economy has been battered once again.

Scandals and mismanagement continue in our Church.

A bloody civil war is raging in Libya.

Riots exploded in several poor areas of England.

In peaceful Norway, a fanatic massacred 77 people, mostly youth.

And here at St. Mary of the Angels you have been struggling as a church community, and today we have to say, "Goodbye" to Bob and Jen who have served us with hard work, patient good humor, and lots of love.

And I know that some of you carry your own burden of pain.

No, it has not been an easy summer.

Just this past week, we began our tertianship program for the young Jesuits preparing for their final vows. We begin by sharing our life-stories. I am always amazed by the heroic stories which I hear. One man spoke of spending two months in prison for climbing the fence at the School of the Americas to protest its training of Latin America’s abusive military. Another man spoke of his escape from Vietnam by boat as a four year old child and not knowing for half a year whether his mother and sisters were alive. A third told a frightening story of being captured by and escaping from a band of boy soldiers in the civil war in Uganda.

But, our readings today also speak of great conflicts. And the conflicts are with God, with Jesus!

Jeremiah voices his anger with God:

"You duped me," he complains.

"Violence and outrage is my message."

"I say to myself, I will not mention Him, I will speak in his name no more."

Pretty powerful language to utter before God and to God!

And, in the Gospel, Peter pulls Jesus aside and rebukes Him. Peter rebukes the very person whom he has just acknowledged as the Messiah and Son of the living God. How could he! And Jesus responds by calling, Peter, "Satan." -- "Get behind me, Satan. You are an obstacle to me."

Again, pretty powerful language, -- both from Peter and from Jesus!

Where is hope in all these conflicts? Do we have any cause for singing?

And then I hear those words:

"No storm can shake my inmost calm,

While to that rock I’m clinging.

Since Love is Lord of heaven and earth,

How can I keep from singing?"

There I find my answer in Jesus as my rock and in Love as Lord of heaven and earth.

  1. Jesus is our rock.

If Jesus has chosen Peter to be the rock on which he builds his Church, as we saw last week, and that rock is quite shaky as we see from the Gospel this week, and as we know from experience, still, that shaky rock rests upon the sturdy rock of Jesus. It is to Him we cling. He is the one for whom our souls are thirsting. He is the one to whom we also say, with the psalmist, "My soul clings fast to you; your right hand upholds me." (Ps. 63) In all tragedies, we still turn to and hold fast to Jesus who stays with us and guides us through these storms.

2) Love as Lord of heaven and earth.

This summer, I was in Norway when Anders Behring Breivik set off a bomb killing 9 people at the government building and then drove an hour away to massacre 68 youth on an island camp. For a moment, fear and anger rose up but courage and love soon followed. That country, from government to survivors, became united in care and compassion for one another, and determined to remain a free and open nation. As one of the survivors expressed it, "If one person, out of hatred, can cause so much death and destruction, think of all the good we can do together out of love." Flowers and candles and notes carpeted the entire plaza before the cathedral, were stacked against every barrier around the bombed area, filled the basins of surrounding fountains, and climbing a mountain a few days later, my companions and I discovered on the mountain top a rose and a candle perched on a rock.

But the greatest solace those days was in the Eucharist. Three Norwegian friends and I spent four days hiking in the mountains. Amidst incredible rugged beauty we had time to pray and time to talk. But, then, each evening, we gathered for Eucharist and shared reflection on the Gospel but always coming back to the grief and healing of the country. Of my companions, one was Catholic, one was Lutheran, one was Pentecostal, all three believers in the real presence of Jesus in the sacrament. We were united in Him and in his love.

It is fitting, too, that we gather at this Eucharist when we have to say, "Goodbye," to Bob and Jen who have done so much to help us be the vibrant Church we are. All life at St. Mary of the Angels begins here in the Eucharist, flows outwards into the neighborhood, and then returns here to be celebrated. And we will celebrate!

Though it has not been an easy summer, in confidence we proclaim:

"No storm can shake [our] inmost calm,

While to that rock [we’re] clinging.

Since Love is Lord of heaven and earth,

How can [we] keep from singing?"


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