Mass for those with Developmental Disabilities
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time – February 13, 2022 

We’re all pretty familiar with Saint Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount in which he shares the Beatitudes, that series of blessings for all who struggle to do what is good, noble and holy in life.  “Blest are the poor in spirit – Blest are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness – Blest are the merciful – Blest are the peacemakers.”  …  We’re less familiar with Saint Luke’s version.

Essentially, in today’s gospel, Luke takes accepted standards of his day and age and turns them upside down.  To those who are considered the “haves” in society, Jesus warns, “Woe to you!”  Wealth and power are not the stuff of the kingdom of God.  But to the “have nots” – the poor, the hungry and the grieving – Jesus says “Happy and blessed are you” for your hope and trust in God will be rewarded with consolation and peace.

Jesus makes these perplexing and somewhat confusing assertions to prove a point.  So much of life – our lives, in fact – is rooted in passing things that we can miss the true values and blessings that endure forever and are most beneficial to our lives and well-being as people of faith.  We can become so focused on obtaining the “goods” of this world that we risk devaluing the riches we already possess.  And look at the enduring blessings that we can all celebrate this day:  the love of family and friends, the gift of good health, the sense of joy and satisfaction that we experience when we give of ourselves to others … and most especially, the blessing of life filled with our sons and daughters – brothers and sisters – with developmental disabilities whom we honor and pray with and for today.

While wealth, power, comfort and convenience are the sought-after yet passing prizes of our world, the treasures of God’s reign are a little different, aren’t then?  The treasures of God’s reign are love – authentic, selfless love – humility, compassion and generosity – blessings that go with us wherever we are and that have the power to bring us true meaning, purpose and peace in our lives.

Let me share with you a story that I think speaks quite poignantly not only to the gospel that was just proclaimed but particularly to today’s celebration.  Many years ago, I watched a segment on 60 Minutes, that I have never forgotten.  Ed Bradley, who’s long deceased, conducted an interview with a family that consisted of a religiously devout mother, a painfully shy father who was quite a bit older than his wife, and their 10-year-old daughter who was wheelchair bound, having been born with spina bifida.

Each year, the family would make a pilgrimage to Lourdes to pray for a miracle.  Bradley was trying to understand why the parents would make such a trip.  It made little sense to him.  For all of the money and effort expended for years in traveling to the shrine, the little girl was still in a wheelchair.

So Bradley asked the little girl what she prayed for.  Do you know what she said?  …  “I pray that my father won’t be so shy.  It makes him lonely.”  …  The interviewer stopped in his tracks, seeming not to know what to say or do next.  Then he went on to ask the little girl’s mother why she and her husband would spend so much money each year when they still have no miracle to show for their efforts.  Listen to what the mother shared.  …  “Oh, Mr. Bradley, you don’t understand.  We have our miracle.  We go each year to give thanks for each other and the lives that we’ve been given, especially our daughter’s.”

The interviewer had one notion of a miracle:  a little girl walking.  He missed the miracle of a daughter’s love for her parents, of a family held together by faith, and of a mother, father and daughter filled with the wisdom to recognize the hand of God sustaining them, come what may in life.

That family interviewed long ago on 60 Minutes maintained a value system based on their faith that made all the difference in their lives.  Yes, they acknowledged that life wasn’t always easy and that there were disappointments that they had to navigate more often than not.  But their values – rooted in the gospel of Jesus yet so often misunderstood by the world – carried them along in life and provided them with a deep sense of meaning, purpose and peace.  …  So many of you understand those values well!

In his annual message for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.  Pope Francis offered these words, which I have shared with you before.  “The world does not become better because only apparently ‘perfect’ people live in it.  It becomes better when human solidarity, mutual acceptance and respect increase.  …  Each of us, sooner or later, is called to face — at times painfully — frailty and illness, both our own and those of others.  And for Jesus,” he said, “the sick and the weak, those cast aside by society, are precisely the ones he loves most.”

My brothers and sisters with developmental disabilities, more than you realize, your unwavering trust in God and your example of acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude and selfless love provide us all with priceless lessons for how best to live as disciples of Jesus.  Simply put, you teach us that we are all a part of God’s plan and each of us is blessed by God for being just the way we are.