Sunday, November 29, 2015

Homily for 1st Sunday of Advent

Homily for the

1st Sunday of Advent

Nov. 29, 2015

Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36

Church of the Magdalene, Pocantico Hills, N.Y.

“They will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  When these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand” (Luke 21: 27-28).

With the 1st Sunday of Advent, we begin a new church year and a new cycle of Scripture readings.  In this cycle, labeled the C Cycle in the lectionary, we’ll read from the Gospel of St. Luke on Sundays of Advent, Ordinary Time, and Lent.

The 1st part of this season looks toward the 2d coming of Christ—a coming to which you won’t hear any reference on the radio nor see any in the stores.  In the 2d part of the season our focus will shift toward remembering Christ’s 1st coming, the historical one at Bethlehem thru his incarnation and birth.  Thruout the season we’re challenged to prepare for Christ’s coming to us personally thru grace, thru mercy, thru forgiveness, thru a loving friendship, thru the strength and courage of renew our commitment to him and to walk in his ways.

It’s that last form of Christ’s coming that St. Paul speaks of in our 2d reading today when he prays that our hearts be strengthened and that we be found blameless before God—and then he refers to “the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones” (1 Thess 3:13), which means his coming at the end of time as judge of the living and the dead, his 2d coming.

Last Judgment (Van Eyck)
I’m sure we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about Christ’s 2d coming, in spite of its being referred to at every Mass.  When we recite the Creed, we profess our belief that “he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.”  In the Missal we used to use, the most commonly used memorial acclamation after the consecration was “Christ has died; Christ has risen; Christ will come again.”  Two of the 3 acclamations that we may use now refer to his coming again.  In the prayer that the priest says after the Our Father, we say that “we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”  When we pray in the Our Father to be delivered from temptation, we’re actually praying, according to the translation of our Catholic Bible, not to be subjected “to the final test,” namely “the tribulations” that the Bible associates with the end of time, the sorts of tribulations that Luke mentions in the gospel reading today.

The particular, literal signs that Luke mentions really don’t need to concern us.  There’s really nothing new about signs in the heavens—meteors, eclipses, alignments of the stars, etc.; nor about “the roaring of the sea and waves” in great storms or tsunamis, nor about earthquakes, famines, wars, and other disasters that some gospel passages mention.  These aren’t the signs of the approaching end of history and Christ’s return.  Unfortunately, disasters both natural and human-caused are all around us regularly and always have been.

And those signs remind us that our life in this world is fragile.  Our history as a human race and as individuals is a brief one.  Therefore Jesus advises us to “be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).  The tribulations that we face every day are our daily tests of our readiness to see Jesus—daily tests that we face in our family lives, our work lives, our use of our free time; daily tests that we face as a nation when we shape national and state policies that concern life and death, war and peace, immigration and refugees, health care, education, etc.  How do we bring our faith to bear in our words and actions every day, so that we may be able “to stand before the Son of Man” and not quail and cower when we meet him?

In fact, Jesus exhorts us to “stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”  If we’ve done our best to walk with him, to follow his teachings in our words and actions; if we’re confident that he’s our merciful Savior and we put our trust in him—why wouldn’t we run eagerly to meet him, or at least to “stand erect,” to stand and wait hopefully for him to greet us, as he says in one of his parables, as his “good and faithful servants”?  The Collect of today’s Mass—what we used to call the “opening prayer”—prays that God our Father grant us “the resolve to run forth to meet Christ with righteous deeds.”

So during this Advent season we might examine ourselves, our relationship with Jesus our Lord, whether we are “conducting ourselves to please God,” as Paul says today (1 Thess 4:1), and resolve to change something in our conduct that might embarrass us on the Day of the Lord.  We might also thank God for having given us Jesus as our Savior; and thank him for some particular virtue that we do practice faithfully—perhaps our loyalty to our spouse, our diligence at work, our honesty in our dealings with others, our regularity at prayer, the way we’ve handled some recent challenge that tested our patience.

May God bless you!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Homily for Thanksgiving Day

Homily for
Thanksgiving Day
Nov. 26, 2015
Luke 17: 11-19
Christian Brothers, Iona College, New Rochelle
Christian Brothers, St. Joseph’s Home, N.R.

“He said to him, ‘Stand up and go; your faith has saved you’” (Luke 11: 19).

The gospel story of the 10 lepers is unique to Luke and is typical of Luke’s interest in Jesus’ attention to society’s outcasts and Luke’s interest in the salvation of the Gentiles—like the Samaritan leper.

The story also shows Jesus’ adherence to the Mosaic Law—a prominent theme in Luke especially in the infancy narratives.  Jesus directs the lepers to “go to the priests” to be certified as cleansed of their disease, as stipulated by the Law (Lev 14:2-9).  Priestly approval will allow them to return to the community, no longer compelled to live apart among the unclean, among those who seem to be cursed by God.

Not yet cured, the 10 lepers do as Jesus tells them.  Isn’t this an act of faith?  They ask for his pity, his compassion; and trusting further in him, they obey.  “As they were going they were cleansed” (17:14).

Then, Luke continues, one of the 10 comes back to Jesus, “glorifying God in a loud voice,” paying homage to Jesus, and thanking him (17:15).  We’re not told whether he does this after 1st going to a priest, or immediately.  (Altho we’re not told the sex of the 10 lepers, the text is clear that this one is male.)

Perhaps there’s a subtle theological implication in this text.  Certainly Luke doesn’t voice it, here or elsewhere, viz., that this one leper is showing himself to a priest, to the one true priest ordained by God, i.e., Jesus, the priest who obtains for us a deeper healing than a physical cure from disease; and only this one healed man recognizes this deeper reality in Jesus, who, under Jewish law, certainly wasn’t a priest.

Jesus is pleased that this one cured man comes back, praising God and thanking Jesus.  Are the other 9 grateful to God and to Jesus for having been cured?  We suppose so.  We also suppose—Luke doesn’t say it—that they were all Jews.  Clearly “this foreigner” has extra reason to be grateful; in Jewish eyes he’s less deserving of God’s grace because he’s a Samaritan.

Like everyone else, Jesus appreciates the personal expression of that gratitude from this one man; and he laments the omission of the other 9, who, perhaps, take it for granted that as Jews they merit God’s blessings.  Jesus’ reaction informs us that it’s very important for us to express our gratitude; and in his goodness he’s given us the most excellent means of doing so in the Eucharist, our weekly or even daily expression of thanks to God for the unmerited gift of salvation.

When Jesus dismisses this one healed leper, he tells him, “Your faith has saved you.”  Is this merely a reminder that his initial faith in coming to Jesus and then obeying his command has brought about his cure, as it did for the other 9 as well?  Is it a statement from Luke that faith in Jesus is sufficient for salvation regardless of one’s nationality—that Samaritans and all the Gentiles are within the scope of God’s plan of redemption?  Or is it a statement of something further?  Is Jesus offering him also interior salvation, that complete salvation which only he can offer to us sinners?

At the least, this episode tells us who believe in Jesus that our faith is a saving faith.  We know very well that it doesn’t save us from physical afflictions, at least not in any immediate sense in the normal course of life.  It doesn’t save us from illness, from accident, from terror, from persecution, finally from physical death and decay.  But it does save us from worse evils:  from our sins, from eternal death, from eternal alienation from God and from our brothers and sisters in the human family.  Jesus’ command to “go, show yourselves to the priests” has a deeper meaning for us, for those who exercise the priesthood of Jesus minister his salvation to believers thru the sacraments and the saving Word of God.  Jesus offers us the pity, the compassion, the mercy of God when we call out to him in faith.  For this, above all, we are grateful on Thanksgiving Day, without overlooking God’s many other blessings to us.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Homily for Solmenity of Christ the King

Homily for the Solemnity of
Christ the King
Nov. 26, 2000
John 18: 33-37
St. Joseph’s Home, Paterson, N.J.
Guardian Angel, Allendale, N.J.

This past weekend (Nov. 21-22, 2015) I concelebrated a Saturday evening Mass at the Scout retreat of the archdiocese of New York--Msgr. Anthony Marchitelli gave a fine homily to the lads and lassies, Scouters, and parents, as he always does.  The Mass I was to have celebrated on Sunday morning at one of our regular chaplaincies was canceled, however.  So no homily for me.  Here's an oldie, from a very specific and memorable historical context!

“Pilate said to Jesus, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’” (John 18: 33).
Passion Play at Salesian school in Itajai, Brazil (2010), courtesy of SLM Steve Widelski

Four weeks ago I arrived in Rome for a meeting of Salesian historians from all over the world at our GHQ.  Many people asked me who was going to win our election—including a member of the British Parliament who turned up at HQ to visit one of his old teachers on staff there.  As a diligent, well informed reader of both The New York Times and The Record, I was able to respond with complete confidence, “God only knows.”

(I note in parentheses that I did vote by absentee ballot—personally delivering it, signed, before I departed, in Paterson, not Florida.)

Well, like you I expected to know on Nov. 8 what only God knew the day before.  But it appears that God’s still keeping the answer a closely guarded secret, and my stock answer will hold true for a while yet, as “their attendants fight” over the kingdom.

We may not know who our President-elect will be.  Today’s feast of Christ the King enables us to put presidents and all earthly rulers into perspective—even Pontius Pilate’s Rome, which lasted 1,130 years as kingdom, republic, and empire—rather longer than our beloved republic’s 393 years so far, including our colonial period.

As the agent of a great earthly empire, Pontius Pilate was concerned about the political aspirations of any popular public figure, including Jesus of Nazareth.  We have plenty of historical evidence of political unrest in Judea under Roman occupation; of Jewish hopes for independence and a revival of the monarchy of King David’s family; of various bloody revolts connected to the proclamation of so-called messiahs.  So Pilate asked this rabbi from Galilee whom so many Jews were talking about, who had just days before made a spectacular public entry to Jerusalem and immediately challenged the Temple authorities—Pilate asked him who he thought he was:  “Are you the King of the Jews?”

Jesus was descended from David.  But his royal claims were not, are not, political as we ordinarily understand politics:  “My kingdom does not belong to this world” (18:36).  Pilate seemed to be intrigued.  He wanted to know more about this otherworldly kingdom.  Jesus told him it was a kingdom of truth.  His subjects were, are, lovers of truth:  “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice” (18:37).

A steady gag asks, “How can you tell when a politician is lying?”  “His lips are moving.”  We’ve heard more than our share of political spin and truth-stretching and worse since Nov. 7.

But we all know that ultimate truth doesn’t lie in—or should I say, rest upon?—any election or political party or system of government.  Lovers of the truth may flourish in republics or kingdoms, tribal councils or empires, even in dictatorships and prisons.  Ultimate truth—our final salvation—lies in God’s everlasting love, revealed to us in his Son Jesus Christ.  Our allegiance, therefore, to any earthly ruler or political system or our native land has to be relative—relative to Jesus Christ and his teachings, his values, his truth.  He is our Lord, our Master, our King, “the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev 22:13).

Rome rose, prospered, declined, and fell.  So have all other republics, kingdoms, and empires, most of them in a lot less time than Rome.  But the dominion of Christ “is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away; his kingship shall not be destroyed” (Dan 7:14).

That being so, we seek in all things to serve Jesus and the truth.  We don’t join Pilate or the secular elite of our society in asking scornfully, “What is truth?” (John 18:38), which is the next verse after this morning’s gospel.  If we take an interest in public affairs—and indeed, we should—it is to serve Jesus by serving our fellow human beings.  For the truth is that they are our brothers and sisters, beloved of God, from the least to the greatest, from the industrial magnate with his billions to the street children of the Third World, from the unborn to the frailest senior citizen.  Whoever wins the Presidency, whatever relationship he’ll have with Congress, whatever rulings the Supreme Court may issue next month or in the next 4 years—our allegiance remains with truth:  the relative truths of fairness, of equality, of just laws and procedures; the non-negotiable truths of human dignity based on God’s fatherhood of us all, of a moral code determined by God and not by popular consensus, and of a last judgment and an eternal destiny beyond Planet Earth.  That destiny includes one of 2 kingdoms not of this world, a kingdom which we belong to even now by choosing to serve it.  One is the kingdom of falsehood, dishonor, hatred, sin.  The other is the kingdom of Jesus Christ, to which we belong when we seek truth, love truth, proclaim truth, honor truth, live truth, without fear or favor, without regard to earthly politics or earthly rulers.  In serving truth, we serve Jesus Christ, the way, the truth, and the life of the human race.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Homily for 33d Sunday of Ordinary Time

Homily for the

33d Sunday of Ordinary Time

Nov. 15, 2015

Heb 10: 11-14, 18

St. Emery, Fairfield, Conn.

St. Emery's pastor, a former SDB, asked me to fill in for him at the 11 o'clock Mass because of another celebration he needed to go to. It was my 1st time at this church--which, I learned, is the last Hungarian national parish in Connecticut. In fact, the 11 is "the Hungarian Mass," and that also was a new experience for me. Of course I used only English, but they sang and responded in Hungarian--all 25 of them (except the deacon). They were happy to have a priest celebrate for them, and the happier when I informed them that Grandpa Mendl has immigrated from Hungary in 1906.

The Crucifixion (Giotto)

“But this [priest] offered one sacrifice for sins and took his seat forever at the right hand of God” (Heb 10: 12).

In the Letter to the Hebrews, we continue to read and reflect on the contrast between the priesthood of the Old Covenant—of the Jewish Law—and the New Covenant priesthood of Jesus, who is “this priest” spoken of in today’s passage from Hebrews.

Last week’s reading (9:24-28) contrasted the blood sacrifices of goats offered year after year in the temple on the Day of Atonement, which benefited only the Jews, with the single sacrifice of Christ’s own blood that benefits all of humanity.  Today’s reading contrasts the daily sacrifices of the Jewish temple—which continued until the Roman army destroyed the temple along with the whole city of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.—with that same one sacrifice of Christ.  These daily sacrifices weren’t atonement sacrifices for the sins of the whole people but sacrifices of repentance for indivduals, sacrifices of praise to God, and daily recommitments to the covenant that God had made with Israel under Moses’ leadership at the time of the Exodus.

But don’t we offer the sacrifice of Christ daily?  Isn’t the Eucharist the sacrifice of Christ?

Yes, it is.  And as we learned from our earliest catechism lessons, the Mass, the Eucharist, is the one, unrepeatable sacrifice of Jesus.  Jesus isn’t dying over and over again, shedding his blood again and again, when we celebrate Mass.  Rather, the Eucharist makes us present, makes us participants, in his one sacrifice on Calvary—as well as witnesses to his resurrection from the dead.  Thru the Eucharist we enter the mystery of eternity—everyone and every event is always present to God—so that “when we eat this bread and drink this blood we proclaim the death of the Lord” (cf. “the mystery of faith”); we witness his death, participating in the crucifixion of Jesus like the Virgin Mary, the Beloved Disciple, and the holy women on Calvary; and we offer the blood of Jesus together with him and with the entire Church all over the world, the entire Church thruout its 2,000-year history, for the redemption of the world.

The reading continues with a seating chart, you might say.  1st, Christ is seated “at the right hand of God” the Father (v. 12)—a position of honor, authority, and influence. (In our gospel reading 4 weeks ago, the apostles James and John sought such seats next to Jesus, you remember).  As our liturgy often affirms, Jesus intercedes for us from his position of closeness to the Father.  This is his priestly role:  to intercede for the sinners for whom he shed his blood, as last week’s reading told us.  Jesus Christ lives, raised on high to God’s throne—for us.

2d, “until his enemies are made his footstool” (v. 13).  If you did today what many conquerors did in ancient times, you’d be accused of torture:  to make your defeated enemies grovel on the ground and then walk over them, or rest your feet on their backs.  That’s the image offered here.  The phrase is a quotation from Ps 110:1:  “The Lord said to my Lord:  Sit at my right hand till I make your enemies your footstool.”  Psalm 110 points to the Messiah as God’s agent for defeating the enemies of Israel, even to the point of executing judgment on the nations, “heaping up [their] corpses” and bashing heads “over the wide earth” (v. 6).

Jesus’ enemies, however, those whom he will set under his feet (figuratively, not literally), aren’t the pagan nations or even human evildoers like the oppressors of Eastern Europe in the last century or the barbarians rampaging around the Middle East and Europe today.  Jesus defeats Satan and his demonic army; he defeats sin; he defeats death—both our bodily death thru the power of his resurrection, and the eternal death of damnation thru the forgiveness of our sins and our reconciliation with God.  This total defeat of God’s enemies will be completed when Jesus returns at the end of time:  “we proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your resurrection, until you come again” (“the mystery of faith”); by his cross and resurrection he has set us free (ibid.)—free from our sins, free from death, free to live forever in our Father’s house.

The reading from Hebrews continues:  “By one offering he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated” (v. 14).  Christ’s one sacrifice has taken away all our sins, making us perfectly clean and holy before God; and that effect lasts “forever.”  But it is effective only for “those who are being consecrated,” those who are being made holy.  It sounds confusing, no?  That’s because we human beings are free to accept Christ’s work in our lives, to allow him to sanctify us—by being baptized, by returning again and again to him in sorrow for our sins (especially thru the sacrament of Reconciliation), by celebrating the Eucharist; or free not to accept all of that, to refuse to admit Christ to our lives.  In the famous parable of the prodigal son, the younger son, the awful sinner, on returning home is received with open arms and a great celebration feast; but the older son refuses to come into the party despite his father’s pleading; he chooses to stay outside in the darkness.  That kind of choice is ours to make every day, my brothers and sisters:  to let Christ work his perfection in us, to strive to lead holy lives that testify that he has consecrated us—or not.

God bless you!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Homily for 32d Sunday of Ordinary Time

Homily for the
32d Sunday of Ordinary Time
Nov. 6, 1994
Mark 12: 38-44
1 Kgs 17: 10-16
St. Anthony, Nanuet, N.Y.

Since I was preaching to Boy Scouts and Scouters on Nov. 7 this year (previous item), I didn’t have a written text for my homily (on the reading from Hebrews this year). Here’s an oldie for you.

There was a working man with a wife and 4 kids.  One day one of his neighbors took off, abandoning his family.  The poor deserted wife couldn’t handle the situation and had to be committed.  The worker and his wife took into their home the 2 children of the shattered family.  He explained:  “Don’t tell me that it’s up to the government to change the world!  Every one of us has to do a little more than the little we already do.  [What my wife and I have done] isn’t much, I know, but at least it’s something!”[1]             

It’s true that this worker and his wife and their 4 children didn’t open an orphanage or a homeless shelter to care for hundreds of the needy.  But most of us would agree that they did a great deal, probably more than most of us would do.

Almost daily we read or hear of some ordinary person who reaches out, perhaps with some risk, to help a neighbor or even a stranger—pulling a woman from a burning wreck on the Cross Bronx Expy., jumping into a river to save someone, holding a mattress so a woman can jump safely from a burning building, blocking and holding an ATM mugger inside a bank lobby.  Those real-life examples from the last 2 months or so may not be as flashy as tackling a madman with an automatic rifle at the White House, but some were just as dangerous, most saved a life, all made a positive difference.

In today’s OT and gospel readings, we find widows who put their trust in God and do their little bit.  The starving widow of Zarephath—who was not even an Israelite, by the way—shares her last miserable little meal with the prophet Elijah, who is a refugee from the wealthy but wicked Queen Jezebel of Israel.  And God miraculously provides for the widow, her son, and the prophet for a year.
Elijah & the Widow by Bartholomeus Breenbergh (d. ca. 1657)

The poor widow in the temple of Jerusalem puts 2 pennies into one of the boxes for the support of the temple and its daily sacrifices, in contrast with many far wealthier people who were putting in larger amounts. Jesus praises her because her sacrifice is much more than anyone else’s.  Implicitly she, like Elijah’s widow friend, has abandoned herself to God.  Not many wealthy people do that in the gospels, and Jesus warns his disciples that consequently it’s very hard for the rich to enter God’s kingdom.

God has called all of us, rich or poor, to put our trust in him and to be saved in Jesus Christ.  But trust, or faith, has to be more than an act of the intellect, more than words.  In the 1st part of today’s gospel, Jesus warns us about the scribes, the theologians of his day, the men who knew all about God and his law but who did little to practice it, whose faith was centered not on God but on themselves.  (Kind of reminds you of politicians talking about American ideals, vs. what they actually do, huh?)

So our faith has to lead to action, like the 2 widows sharing their meager resources, like the worker and his family taking in someone else’s children, like ordinary people taking risks because other ordinary people are in danger.  We can’t say, “I’m not rich enuf,”  “Let the government do it,”  “So-and-so is better at it than I am.”  God expects us to do our little bit in faith, whether it’s giving alms, sharing our time, offering expertise, consoling, encouraging, sharing our faith.

The one widow found deliverance because she shared her handful of flour and few ounces of oil with Elijah.  The other widow won Christ’s praise for her sacrificial generosity.  Remember them the next time you have the opportunity to reach out to the homeless, the hungry, the exile, the missionary, the parochial school child.  The psalm said it is the Lord who secures justice for the oppressed, feeds the hungry, sets captives free, protects strangers (Ps 146:7,9). [2]  When we do the same, even according to our limited abilities and with our limited means, we are doing his work.

        [1] Salvatore Grillo, The Gospel According to Barabbas, trans. Nino Cavoto  (New Rochelle: Don Bosco Publications, 1982), p. 132.
        [2] “…God’s work on earth must truly be our own” (JFK, inaugural).

Michael A. Boccardi Memorial Trek-o-ree 2015

Michael A. Boccardi
Memorial Trek-o-ree 2015

This year's Boccardi Trek-o-ree--an annual activity of the Algonquin District of the Boy Scouts of America, Westchester-Putnam Council, took place Nov. 6-8 at Durland Scout Reservation in Putnam Valley, N.Y. The hiking (trekking) component, naturally, was done on Saturday the 7th. I was told by one of the trek organizers that some 165 Scouts were on the trail during the day, and total registration for the event (including adults) was over 200.

Unfortunately, your faithful blogger couldn't get there until about 4:30 p.m. on Saturday because of a Salesian day of recollection (previous item). He camped, as usual, with Troop Forty from Mt. Vernon, his "home troop," and got his tent pitched as the sun set and daylight totally disappeared.

After a supper of tin-foil chicken, potatoes, and veggies with the five or six Scouts and four other Scouters from the troop, I celebrated Mass in the camp's pavilion for about 65 Scouts and Scouters--an unusually large turnout, and a very nice surprise. We barely had enuf hosts for Communion!

One of the Scouters present took a few photos at Mass with my camera.
Singing the opening hymn at Mass
After Mass we had a traditional Scout campfire with songs, skits, and Scout Vespers; there was also a solemn "retirement" of a well-worn American flag.

Scouts and Scouters at start of campfire.  Troop 40’s Scoutmaster, Tunji Renner,

and an Assistant Scoutmaster, Jimmy Douvres, are standing at right.
Preparing to retire a flag

Scout Vespers
And after the campfire with all the Scouts still in camp, Troop Forty returned to our camp to enjoy our own little fire--and to toast marshmallows.

Fr, Pascual Chavez Leads Day of Recollection for Salesian Family

Fr. Pascual Chavez Leads
Day of Recollection
for Salesian Family

Fr. Pascual Chavez, SDB, rector major of the Salesians from 2002 to 20014, led a day of retreat on Saturday, November 7, for the Salesian Family at Mary Help of Christians Academy in North Haledon, N.J. More than 150 SDBs, FMAs, Don Bosco Volunteers, and Cooperators from New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts were present, and groups from Florida, Illinois, and Louisiana (as well as infirm FMAs at the provincialate in Haledon) took part through live-streaming parts of the program.

The key element of the day’s program was a conference on the prophetic role of consecrated persons in awakening the world to Christ (above). In a presentation that took about an hour, Fr. Pascual he summarized reflections that filled 13 single-spaced pages (which he gave out to those present). His audience much appreciated both the oral summary and the written text, which will continue to supply fodder for meditation.

The day’s schedule also included Mass, a meeting of the Rector Major emeritus with SDBs and FMAs in formation, a question-and-answer period for everyone, opportunity for the sacrament of Reconciliation, and dinner.

Fr. Pascual’s address to the entire group picked up on Pope Francis’s message to the Union of Superiors General: today’s religious must be witnesses of Christ to the whole world; they must go out to the peripheries of society to reach everyone with the Gospel. He repeated what he has often said, that consecrated life begins with God’s loving those whom he chooses and calls, and the consecrated person responds to that love. He continued by emphasizing the call to holiness through love for God and neighbor, i.e., to have the mind, the heart, and the sentiments of Jesus; when one is holy, he or she will be happy.

In his meeting with the young confreres and sisters (below), Fr. Pascual addressed formation issues and took questions; his key messages to them were that they should live wisely, reflect deeply, and love generously, and that Jesus is worthy of one’s whole life.

The day’s Mass was a votive Mass of Mary Help of Christians with Marian-themed readings. Fr. Pascual began his homily on John 2:1-11 by observing that for Don Bosco “Mary wasn’t a devotion but a living presence.” He urged confreres, sisters, and affiliated Salesians to give themselves to her docilely, heed her advice to listen to her Son, and to direct others also to him. In imitation of Mary at Cana, sharing in the joy of a couple’s wedding and fearing their embarrassment, Salesians need to be with people in all the joys and sorrows of their lives, he said. In those joys and sorrows, and in all of life, our concern must be to discern Jesus’ presence because he’s the one who can address life’s problems.

Fr. Pascual also noted that after pointing the wedding servants to Jesus (2:5) she disappeared from the scene. The message there, he said, is that our proper focus always must be on Jesus.

Finally, he advised Christians to be believers who are credible in their actions and words; that’s how we can lead others to faith in Jesus, as Mary helped lead the disciples of Jesus to begin to believe in him (2:11).

Your faithful blogger had to depart North Haledon after the session with the SDBs and FMAs in formation in order to fulfill his duties as a Boy Scout chaplain.