Mass with Anointing of the Sick - Homily of Father Howard Chabot
There is something about a pilgrimage and people gathering in the open countryside that reminds us of the crowds who followed Jesus through the hills of Galilee. They were seeking meaning for their lives and in Jesus the people found a teacher who spoke and acted with authority. The same Jesus according to his promise is with us here today in Word and Sacrament, in prayer and song, and in you and me as the holy people who have assembled in his Name.
We can say too that Saint Ann has gathered us here. Sisters and brothers of Jesus, our grandmother has brought us together for this family reunion to celebrate our faith and to do what Jesus told us to do in his memory. When families come together they tell stories as they remember their roots. They recall their origin and focus on their goals. A pilgrimage likewise gives us time and place for reflection… allowing us to remember who we are and where we are going.
Christian People view all of life as a pilgrimage in which we journey as sisters and brothers towards God. We are God’s People. That statement itself says something that is very important. It defines us as People of Faith whose journey moves us towards our goal struggling to be a light in the darkness of a culture that so often ignores and frequently denies the existence of God. We stand side by side firmly professing that we believe in God and trust in his Word.
That Word – God’s Word, defines our origin and our destiny. It affirms that every human being has been created in God’s image and likeness and as such possesses a dignity that demands respect at every stage and condition of life. We believe that |God has called us to rely on his mercy by living faithfully, acknowledging him in truth and serving him in holiness so that we may be welcomed finally into our heavenly homeland, the inheritance promised us through Jesus in his death and resurrection.
The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church from Vatican II describes it this way: “At all times and among every people, God has given welcome to whosoever fears him and does what is right. It has pleased God, however, to make men holy and save them not merely as individuals without any mutual bonds, but by making them into a single people, a people which acknowledges Him in truth and serves him in holiness.”
As we look at our roots in the Hebrew Scriptures, we read how Joshua laid the choice for faithfulness before the people. He reminded them of what they had left behind and what God THE LORD had done for them. He challenged them to make a choice of serving the gods that their ancestors worshipped in Mesopotamia or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land they were living. But, he said ‘as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.
Our pilgrimage here to the Shrine of St. Ann’s encourages us to remember what we have received from the hand of God and with gratitude on our part proclaim in our time: “We will serve the Lord.”
Can you say it? Will you say it? “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord!”
How will we do it? We will do it tenderly and with mercy.
In proclaiming this extraordinary Jubilee Year, our Holy Father, Pope Francis has chosen the theme “Merciful like the Father”. These are the words of Jesus from the gospel of Luke (6:35-36) “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
“Merciful like the Father.” We know God’s mercy. We ask it as we begin our Eucharist. We celebrate it the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Many of you devoutly pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy pleading the Eternal Father “For the sake of Christ’s sorrowful passion have mercy on us and on the whole world.”
We have been blessed by God. We have received mercy. Through his death on the cross and through his glorious resurrection, Jesus the merciful one, has demonstrated for us that the Name of God is Mercy. “Mercy” says Pope Francis, is the divine attitude that embraces, it is God’s self-giving that welcomes, that leans down to forgive…. To follow the way of the Lord, the Church is called on to pour its mercy over all those who recognize themselves as sinners, who assume responsibility for the evil they have committed and who feel in need of forgiveness.”
He teaches: “The Church does not exist to condemn people but to bring about an encounter with the visceral love of God’s mercy. ….”
Pope Francis likes to use the image from the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of a ‘field hospital’ to describe this “Church that goes forth”. As recently as last evening, speaking to priests, seminarians and religious in Poland where he is attending Word Youth Day, he urged these ministers of the Church to leave their comfort zones and go out and care for God’s People. The Church as a “field hospital” he noted in an earlier interview is to be “ a mobile structure that offers first-aid and immediate care, so that its soldiers do not die. It's a place for urgent care, not a place to see a specialist”. “I hope”, he said in the interview, “that the Jubilee will serve to reveal the Church’s deeply maternal and merciful side, a Church that goes forth towards those who are “wounded” who are in need of an attentive ear, understanding, forgiveness and love.” (Page 52-53 The Name of God is Mercy)
I pray you experience that here today… an attentive ear, understanding, forgiveness and love. These are signs of the Divine Mercy. I pray that you also will come to know it as the priests anoint you with the healing oil of Saint Ann during this liturgy.
We pray for mercy at this pilgrimage. We ask God for healing for all that ails us in body, mind and spirit. We seek courage and strength to choose life and live it day by day. We thank God for the mercy that has brought us to this moment and for the way it enriches all our human relationships. We come here just as we are and we trust in God and the intercession of Saint Ann.
In the parable that Jesus tells in the Gospel today we are reminded that it is not what we have; it’s what we are that matters. However great or small our possessions, we are reminded to set our heart on what really matters to God … to grow rich in the sight of God.
Portia in her soliloquy in Shakespeare’s play, The Merchant of Venice observes….
“We all do pray for mercy And that same prayer doth teach us all to render the deeds of mercy.”
Just as Jesus taught us to pray “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”, we who ask Mercy of God are to show mercy to others.
The Church has traditionally listed Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy that can help us enter into what Pope Francis calls a revolution of tenderness. I am sure you are familiar with them.
Seven Corporal Works of Mercy
Feed the hungry; Give drink to the thirsty; Clothe the naked; Forgive injuries; Shelter the homeless; Visit the sick and those in prison; Bury the dead.
And Seven Spiritual Works of Mercy
Instruct the ignorant; Counsel the doubtful; Admonish the sinner; Comfort the sorrowful; Forgive injuries; Bear wrongs patiently; Pray for the living and the dead.
As the Gospel parable today points out “it’s not what we have but what we are that is important and no matter how great our how little our possessions we need to set our heart on what really matters to God ….To grow rich in the sight of God.
From God we have received all that we have. To God we look to receive “mercy and the fullness of redemption.”
We take to hearts today the words of Jesus as he sent his disciples out to preach and to heal:
“Freely you have received, Freely give.”
“Be merciful like the Father”