Monday, February 10, 2014

Homily - "Mercy through Chipotle"

Fundraiser at Roti for the Holy Land pilgrimage
Come support GW Catholics' trip to the Holy Land in May 2014! The fundraiser will be tonight from 6-8pm. Just mention our name at the cash register and we'll receive 25% of the profit. We appreciate your support; hope to see you there!!

Click HERE to listen to Sunday's homily.

One of my favorite books in our library is “Modern Saints” by Ann Ball.  We have so many good books; we try to have the best and most up-to-date resources for you.  “Modern Saints” is a collection of short biographies of modern-day saints.  I picked it up again last week because tonight’s readings refer to light; and, saints are lights in our modern world.  Jesus says, “you are the light of the world”.  This is amazing because…He is the light of the world!  And, yet He gives us that title, saying to each one of you, “you are the light of the world”.  Now, before we let our heads get too big, St. Paul reminds us in the second reading that it’s not just us…it’s mainly from God.  Christ gave us His light at Baptism…that’s what the candle your godparents received symbolized.  He gave us His light, and has sent us out to be His light in the world. 

Tonight’s readings tell us how to shine our light brightly.  It is through “good deeds” that will “glorify your heavenly Father”.  From the prophet Isaiah: “share your bread with the hungry…clothe the naked…satisfy the afflicted”…”then light shall rise for you”.  If you know your Catechism, these should all ring a bell.  These sound very much like the corporal and spiritual works of mercy!  The corporal works are to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, visit the sick, etc. (there are seven altogether).  The spiritual works are to instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, comfort the afflicted, etc. (there are seven of those, too).  (By the way, it is said that priests are to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable; preaching the Gospel will do that.)

This book, then, is chalked full of the works of mercy.  One of my favorite stories from it involves St. Vincent Pallotti who was a priest in Italy in the 1800s. He had a special love for the poor, and he lived simply and humbly, in union with the poor.  He reminds us of Pope Francis.  Fr. Pallotti hated to waste money, time, or resources. One day, another priest was throwing away scraps of paper. St Vincent collected the scraps and sold them for 10 cents. The other priest thought he was nuts. They both went to a hospital to visit the sick. On the way, St. Vincent purchased a box of crackers with the 10 cents. At the hospital, there was a patient who was dying; he was notorious for hating priests. At the very sight of priests, her would foam at the mouth and yell out obscenities and blasphemies. The two priest prayed in the chapel of the hospital for him and the other patients.  When Fr. Pallotti arrived at his bed, he was asleep, so the priest immediately went over to bless him. The man woke up and opened his mouth to curse him.  Fr. Pallotti dropped a cracker in his mouth!  As the man chewed the cracker, St Vincent told him about Jesus and mercy. He finished chewing and was about to start yelling when St. Vincent dropped another cracker in his mouth. They did this several times until God finally won.  The man finally broke down and started crying.  He made an Act of Contrition and asked for Confession which he made to the priest.  At the end of it all, he cried out, “Jesus, have mercy on me”. A short time later, he died.

This was obviously a great example to the other priest about not wasting anything; even scraps of paper can help save a soul.  To all of us, it’s an example of creatively living the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  We try to do that at Newman.  We just came off of our ski retreat.  We have pizza or Chipotle after Sunday Mass…free Tuesday dinners…white-water rafting retreat.  All of these are ways to open the door to instruct, counsel, comfort, etc.  It’s like the scraps of paper and the crackers: salvaging the paper and using it to buy crackers was inherently good.  And, it opened the door for the man to be instructed and comforted….and ultimately saved.  We do the same thing…Chipotle is inherently good!  And, it opens the door for the spiritual works of mercy. Those who went on the ski retreat said that they learned spiritual lessons even while skiing.  If they fell, they knew someone was there to help them back up.  “Comfort the afflicted” might be the way to describe helping those who tried snowboarding for the first time (and fell often)!   

Our mission is primarily to do spiritual works of mercy…for the salvation of souls. There is such an emphasis on the corporal works of mercy, and rightly so.  We emphasize both body (corporal) and soul (spiritual).  The corporal works can often lead to the spiritual and to the salvation of souls, as it did for the dying patient through St. Vincent.  Please join us in our mission of performing both corporal and spiritual works of mercy on this campus.

Finally, the Lord himself will perform a work of mercy for us tonight in the Eucharist.  He will bestow bread (the Bread of Life, himself) on us who are spiritually hungry.  Mother Teresa said that spiritual poverty is the greater poverty.  We come to the Lord tonight spiritually poor and ask Him to feed and enrich us….to give us the Grace to do good deeds, and to shine our light brightly so that each of us will truly be the light of the world.     

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