HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION 2017 DEACON ANDREW THOMAS
Wisdom often comes from the least expected sources. I'm going to sing an excerpt of a song that appeared in prime time on the CBS network in the late 70s. See if you can guess who the singer was......
"It's not that easy being green Having to spend each day the color of the leaves When I think it could be nicer being red, or yellow or gold Or something much more colorful like that.
When green is all there is to be It could make you wonder why, but why wonder why Wonder, I am green and it'll do fine, it's beautiful And I think it's what I want to be."
Who is it?
Kermit the Frog!
Graduates, for many of you, it hasn't been easy being St. Michael's green day after day. All of the late nights completing your homework, studying for tests, heavy basketball, soccer, and volleyball practices.
Wearing the same green uniform day in day out. On behalf of Fr. Ed, our pastor, Fr. J.P., our parochial vicar, Ms. Walters, our principal, and all the faculty and staff here tonight, we want to express how proud we are of you and what you've accomplished.
Our hope is that you will always accept your identity as G.A.T.O.R.S, because G.A.T.O.R. stands for, "Giving all to our redeemer." In other words, your identity is in Jesus Christ.
Graduates, today with the feast day of the Visitation. Itt is a celebration of restoration of our identity as children of God. Present together in today's Gospel, are four persons: Elizabeth, Mary, John the Baptist, and Jesus. All four play an active role in the Gospel. They glory in their identity as God designed them to be.
John the Baptist and Jesus are actively present in the womb. At the moment Mary greets Elizabeth, she is filled with the Holy Spirit, and John leaps in her womb.
Mary accepted courageously her identity as the mother of God, and chose His will proclaimed in the Magnicat, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked with favor on His lowly servant!” In other words, accepting the truth, set Mary free. Accepting her identity as Theotokos, or “Mother of God.” But also as God's humble servant.
Now Mary could have seen this event as a restriction of her freedom. Shouldn't a woman have a choice to bring forth life or not? How dare the almighty God put this heavy yoke on her? What about what Mary wanted to do? What about her plans?
If truth lies in the relationship between freedom and identity. Sin instead of making us free, enslaves us. We are designed for truth because we are children of God. When we become closer to Christ and embrace His commandments, we become free because we become aware of the boundaries of sin.
Once we are committed to avoid sin at all costs, we have complete creative freedom to live joyful lives serving Christ. Our identity becomes more and more recognizable to others as children of God. You see, sin takes the joy right out of us, and instead of freeing us, we become slaves to the sin, and those addictions and vices are hard to break.
The feast of the Visitation reminds of that their is great joy in our identity as children of God, and gives us motivation to pursue this identity free from sin.
You all are familiar with the martyrdom of John the Baptist, and Jesus’s suffering and death on the cross. Both men were unwilling to give up their identities given to them by the eternal Father. But I’d like to share with you a different kind of martyr.
He lived in the middle 18th century, and was born in France. His parents longed for him to be a priest, and so he studied with his uncle who was a priest, Latin, and history for a couple of years, but his uncle doubted that he had a vocation to the priesthood, and the young man’s parents were very disappointed.
At around 18, he young man’s uncle died, and he left his uncle’s home to pursue a vocation in the monastery as a Trappist monk. The Trappists denied his vocation, saying he wasn’t fit for the rigors of the life. The young man then went to the Carthusians, who were known for their hospitality.
Surely, they would accept him. However, they too thought he was unfit for monastic life. The young man attempted to be received as a brother monk in various monasteries five times, and was rejected each time.
He sent letters home to his parents always thankful and with renewed hope: "There are many monasteries in Italy, and most surely one will accept me."
He never was accepted.
And so he spent his life making pilgrimages from church to church throughout Europe. Eventually, he developed a strong stench. He lived as a poor beggar with tattered clothes. Vermin sometimes would follow him into the churches, but he visited the Sacraments often, and treated his brother beggars with love and affection, even though he was abused and treated very unkindly by passersby.
His confessor during his last year in Rome was amazed at how eloquent were his confessions, although he had to take him into another room where no one else was present because of the stench, and he asked him, “Sir, have you studied divinity?” The now 35 year old man responded, “No, Father. I’m just a poor, ignorant beggar.”
His last years were spent among the ruins of the Coliseum in Rome. When he died on April 16, 1783, all came out on the streets of Rome chanting, “The Saint is dead, the saint is dead.” His name was St. Benedict Joseph Labre.
On May 1, we celebrated the Feast Day of St. Joseph the Worker. The point of the feast is that it is not the work one does that gives a person identity, it is the reality that the person doing the work is made in the image and likeness of God.
Whatever school you attend, whatever job or career you take on. Work to the best of your ability. Remember what gives you identity is that you are a child of God. The only thing that you should concern yourself with is your faithfulness to your identity as a child of God.
Your dignity already exists, and there is nothing you can do to mess that up. Graduates, even if at some point you are rejected by the world, God will never reject you, just stay faithful to God and His Church.
John the Baptist and Jesus were rejected by the world. You will be too if you follow God’s commandments, if you stay close to the Church and her Sacraments.
Study hard. Continue developing your gifts. But use your gifts to bring others closer to Christ, so that they can realize their dignity in their identity in Christ.
Some practical advice to live with gratitude for your identity in Christ.
1.) Go to Mass every Sunday. Thank Jesus for dying on the cross for you.
2.) Continue reading the Bible and the Catechism. These books will teach you who Jesus Christ is and keep you close to Him.
3.) Obey to the best of your ability the Ten Commandments, and when you sin, do not be too proud to avoid the Sacrament of Confession. God loves you so much, and is calling you to return to Him.
4.) Pray the rosary every day. The rosary is a powerful prayer because it keeps you close to Jesus and Mary.
Kermit the Frog tells us in the movie titled, The Muppets, the three greatest gifts of life. Number 3, Laughter, Number 2, Ice Cream, and Number 1, Children.
You children are all great gifts to your parents and to our Church. May God bless you with the courage and zeal of John the Baptist, the hope of Elizabeth, the humility of Mary, and a great love for Jesus Christ.
We love you and we’re proud of you.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!