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Homily for the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time




Innocence is attractive. When we look at the boom of American illustration in the 20th century in books and in magazines, Norman Rockwell certainly stands out in his beautiful, wholesome illustrations regarding family life in America.

Starting with his first illustration for the Saturday Evening Post in 1916, for 47 years, Norman Rockwell would create 323 Saturday Evening Post covers that are still popular even today. Rockwell was able to paint a cultural innocence within our American society, that helped us to see the value in little God-given graces.

Norman Rockwell liked using contrast in his paintings to hook the viewer into the illustration. The illustration titled, After the Prom, painted in 1957, shows a modestly dressed, innocent high school couple in vibrant, glowing white, at a local truck stop. The clerk is smelling the beautiful white corsage of the young lady who is so proud of it, as a truck driver sitting next to them looks on in amusement. The diner is dirty with cigarette butts on the ground, yet the couple sticks out in a good way, because of their innocence and purity.

Two years previously, Rockwell painted, The Marriage License, showing a beautiful, young, attractive, and innocent couple signing their marriage license with a pure optimism with regard to their covenantal bond, as the older clerk looks off in the distance a bit indifferently.

When we look at these paintings we are attracted to the innocence, not the dirtiness of the truck stop or the indifference of the older, county clerk. We admire this innocence and purity, but wonder how or even whether or not this innocence can be maintained in a fallen and broken world.

Our first reading from Proverbs, there is an emphasis on the value of innocence, particularly in the description of a worthy wife. Proverbs states that a husband can entrust fully his heart to her, and she will always bring him good, and not evil.

The worthy wife is then contrasted with the one who is albeit charming and beautiful on the outside, but corrupt on the inside.

Most worthy of praise, however, is that this wife Fears the Lord - which is the beginning of Wisdom.

Throughout the Old Testament, the Sacred Scriptures have used the sacramental sign of Marriage as symbolic of God’s union with His children. In this case, God is in a covenantal union with the Israelites. The prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, and Joel all reference directly this marital sacramental symbolism.

Israel is strong when Israel embraces God’s covenant and lives virtuously in worship of only the one true God. Israel is weakened, when Israel goes against the covenant and indulges in relationships with false gods.

Remember Samson? Samson is this big strong Israelite who has great strength because of his long hair - a reference to the Nazrite Vow, that devout Jewish men would take as an ascetical practice to grow in virtue. What many people who read the story of Samson do not realize, is that Samson is an allegorical figure of the nation of Israel who struggles in marital relationships because of his own selfishness, and his proclivity to paganism, representing all of Israel.

Samson’s weakness is evident when he chooses to lie down with a harlot, Delilah, who represents an attraction to the gods of the Philistines. This attraction an infidelity leads him to lose his hair and his strength.

This covenantal marriage between God and His people is most evident in the Book of the Prophet Hosea is also allegorical in nature as a marital relationship between Hosea and Gomer. Hosea is a faithful man, yet Gomer is promiscuous, and causes Hosea a lot of pain. Ultimately, Gomer represents the Israelite people who have succumbed to false gods of the Baals and made pagan alliances with Assyria and Egypt. But Hosea, who represents God, is ready to receive Gomer back to restore the marital relationship despite Gomer’s infidelity.

In the second reading, St. Paul reminds us that we through our baptism are children of the light, and not children of the darkness. Thus we must stay faithful to Jesus Christ. For St. Paul tells us in his Letter to the Ephesians that Christ is the bridegroom, and we are the bride. We are Holy Mother Church. We receive and accept the love of Christ, and reciprocate that love back to Him.

Throughout Salvation History, God’s people have had their ups and downs with regard to faithfulness and the need for conversion, and God often uses punishment and oppression as a means to awaken the hearts and minds of his people to their errors and infidelity. We see this throughout the bible.

But our God has always sent us mediators to plead on our behalf. We know that Moses was a mediator between God and man throughout the wanderings in the desert. We also know that Samuel was a mediator that warned the Israelite people that having a king like all of the other nations would be detrimental to their family life. Elijah and Jeremiah also act as mediators trying to get the Israelites to renounce their attachment to paganism and turn back to God.

Jesus Christ is the mediator par excellence, pleading, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” His sacrifice is a mediation for us so that we can be reconciled to the Father once again. Next Sunday, we will be celebrating His taking of the throne as King of Heaven and Earth.

But who is our mediator today? If Christ the King, who has taken his throne in the heavenly sanctuary will return to judge the living and the dead, who is our mediator between ourselves and Jesus Christ? Our mediatrix is the Blessed Virgin Mary, the New Eve, Queen of Heaven and earth. Jesus’ mother and our mother continually intercedes for us out of concern for the sins that have caused so much damage to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

This is why we pay attention to Mary’s apparitions particularly the recent apparitions in the 20th and into the 21st century. She is our mediatrix. We pay particular attention to her apparition at Fatima, and in Akita, Japan. Our Lady calls for conversion of heart, prayers of reparation, foretells of apostasy in the hierarchy of the Church. We should all become more familiar with these apparitions, because Mary is our mediatrix

But I’d like to turn your attention to some apparitions that took place here in America, to Sr. Mildred Mary Neuzil, beginning on September 26, 1956, until her death on January 10, 2000.

These apparitions discuss the importance of purity in the family, reflecting the purity of the Holy Family. Our Lady of America says,

“I desire that children honor me especially by the purity of their lives.”

“Blessed are the homes that honor my name and the name of my Father.”

“Blessed are the homes where I am loved, for there the Holy Trinity dwells.”

“Blessed are the parents and children who have made a home for God in their heart.”

“Woe to parents who set a bad example to their children.”

“Woe to parents who teach their children how to gain materially in the world, and neglect to prepare them for the next.”

“Woe to children who disobey and show disrespect to their parents. ‘Honor thy Mother and Father,’ on this they shall be judged most severely.”

The talents we receive from God represent the graces we have received from God. We use those graces to evangelize others and bring them to accept Jesus Christ and receive baptism. We will be judged on how well we have lived a life of purity in the Gospel

But first and foremost, we pass those graces on to our children. May every family be a holy family, so that the domestic church can someday restore through God’s help, the Universal Church.

The United States that Norman Rockwell depicted so well in beauty and innocence, reveals what Norman Rockwell wanted America to be and I think what we all want America to be. Our Lady’s prayers are powerful, and can help us to be an example of purity and innocence in family life for our world.

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