HOMILY
Women’s Conference – June 8, 2024
I Kings 19:4-9, 11-15; I Corinthians 11:23-26; Luke 24:13-35

The road to Emmaus story is one of the great and memorable stories that have come down to us in the scriptures.  For all its marvelous elements, however, it is interesting to note that biblical scholars and archaeologists have yet to definitively determine precisely where the little town of Emmaus was located.  And that’s just as well.  The way the gospel is written, the road to Emmaus story is less an account of geography than it is a story of every one of us and our own personal journeys of faith.  In fact, only one of the two disciples along the road is given a name – Cleopas.  The other remains nameless – perhaps waiting for us to assume our place within this encounter with the risen Jesus. 

Let’s look at the gospel again.  The story takes place on the afternoon of the day of Jesus’ resurrection.  Having just completed the Passover Sabbath, two disciples of Jesus were making their way to the village of Emmaus.  Being identified as disciples, it’s clear that they were far more than mere disinterested observers of the events of all that had taken place in Jerusalem a few days earlier.  Their world had been turned upside down.  The one in whom they had invested their lives was dead.  Their conversation was punctuated by shock, anger and sadness over the great injustice that had befallen their revered rabbi, Jesus – along with a certain sense of confusion and bewilderment as they reveal that some from their group have announced that he was alive!  …  If nothing else, like any of us who have ever faced such tragedy and upheaval, they were vulnerable – open to whatever they might hear that could provide them with some sense of understanding of all that had happened in their friend’s life – and in their own.

Unexpectedly, the two were suddenly joined by a stranger who asked them what they were talking about with such passion.  The stranger then explained – to their astonishment – the meaning of each of the events of the past week.  When they reached the village, the two disciples asked the stranger to remain with them.  And, in words from Luke’s gospel that we have come to treasure, the two disciples came to know in the breaking of the bread that it was the risen Jesus who was with them all throughout their journey!

I don’t know if any of you have ever read Man’s Search for Meaning, a classic work written by Dr. Viktor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist who dies twenty years ago at the age of 92.  Frankl spent years in Nazi death camps during World War II and live to tell about that experience.

He wrote in that seminal work about the notion of freedom which was so completely withdrawn from the lives of those who were trapped in the death camps.  He stated that when every freedom is taken away from a person – the freedom to move from here to there – the freedom to determine what you wear, what you eat, what you do – there is one freedom that can never be taken away – one freedom that always remains:  the freedom to choose an attitude.  …  That one freedom, my friends, has the power to make all the difference in our lives, regardless of where we are on our journey.

The two disciples in the Emmaus story – for all the disparate feelings they were experiencing – maintained an attitude of openness to something more.  They could have closed their hearts and maintained an attitude of bitterness, but they didn’t.  Instead, they were searching – grasping at anything that might enable them to make sense of all that had happened and all that they were hearing.  …  And it was precisely in their attitude of openness – of being vulnerable to a stranger and ultimately to God – that Jesus began the process of revealing himself to them. 

Yet, it was through another attitude maintained by the two disciples that they came to know and recognize Jesus.  The point of Jesus’ entry into their lives was the Near Eastern tradition that a stranger should never travel alone on a dangerous road.  And so, with an attitude of hospitality, the disciples invited the stranger to stay with them and to share in their food.

It was at that moment that Jesus became known to them.   At the very moment when they forgot themselves and their disappointments and hurts – the moment when they focused on the well-being of another – Jesus became known to them in the breaking of the bread.  …  The good deed – the reaching out – the act of service – revealed the risen Jesus, who was there all along.

So often, sisters and brothers, we’re inclined to think that we’re at some sort of disadvantage in the Church today when it comes to encountering the risen Jesus.  Would that we had the opportunity to experience him like his disciples in the earliest days following his resurrection.  Would that we were able to return to some golden era in the Church when life was less complicated and the faithful were more devout and earnest in their beliefs.  Surely in those times, we would have been privileged to experience the risen one more intensely than we do today.

The Emmaus story, however, was saved by the early Church to remind us that two of Jesus’ disciples – on the very day of the resurrection – experienced him alive in exactly the same way that we do today.  …  Their attitude was one of vulnerability and openness to God.  … They listened to His Word.  …  And then they came to know Jesus in their hearts through the breaking of the bread.  …  They encountered Jesus by doing what we do during this moment of prayer. 

Not certain of such a bold assertion?  Then reflect with me what we are about during this Mass.  …  First, it’s safe to assume that for all the baggage that we bring with us to this moment of prayer, we’re open to the presence and power of God, aren’t we?  If we weren’t, we wouldn’t be here this morning.  …  We just listened to the Word of God and now we’re reflecting upon its meaning in our lives.  …  And in a moment, we will break the bread of the Eucharist together.

Yet, there is one more thing that we ought never lose sight of, sisters and brothers.  The point of entry for Jesus into the lives of the two disciples in today’s gospel came when they stepped beyond their own personal desire for intimacy with the Divine and welcomed another into their lives.  As Pope Francis so, so often reminds us, it is through encounters with other persons that Jesus most reliably reveals himself.  Today’s gospel is proof enough of this reality. 

For almost two years, Catholics throughout our land have been participating in a Eucharistic Revival and we’ll hear more about that throughout the course of this day.  We’ve been encouraged during this time to renew our spirits through the sacrament of Jesus’ body and blood and so to encounter the power of the risen Christ in our lives.  But we are also challenged to see ourselves in the very sacrament that we receive, that we worship and that we adore.  For at the very heart of the Eucharist is the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross – the selfless, crucified God who gave his life in loving service of the people he came to save – you and me.  As such, an authentic encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist demands far more from us than just a few moments alone with the Lord whom we adore.  The selfless pattern of Jesus’ life becomes the path for our journey as disciples.  Eucharist calls us to mission – to be the living presence of Jesus in our world today.   

The great Saint John Chrysostom described what lies at the heart of our mission as believers.  “Would you honor Christ’s body?  Then do not permit him to be despised in his members, that is, in the poor who are in need of clothes.  Do not honor him here in church clothed in silk, while outside, you neglect him when he is cold and has no clothes.  …  What advantage is it to Christ if the altar is covered with gold vessels while he himself is starving in his poor?  First, feed those who are hungry and only then, adorn the altar with what remains.”

In reflecting upon the Eucharist, Pope Francis put it best as he reminds us that the Eucharist is not solely food for the journey to heaven.  In giving of his very life for our salvation, Jesus also considers the journey we engage here on earth.  “Sometimes,” Pope Francis noted, “there is the risk of confining the Eucharist to a vague dimension, bright and perfumed with incense, but distant from the straits of everyday life.  …  Our Eucharistic adoration comes alive when we take care of our neighbor like Jesus does.  …  We need to eat but we also need to feed others.”

So here we are, sisters and brothers, disciples of Jesus trying to find our way – seeking to encounter the presence of God and, in so doing, to discover some sense of peace and consolation.  Like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus on the very day of the resurrection, may we be wise and humble enough to maintain an attitude of openness to experiencing God – yes, in the breaking of the bread of life – but also through hospitality and service of those lives that God entrusts to our care – lives that give flesh and blood to the presence of the risen Jesus and lives that have the power to set our hearts on fire with God’s love.

 

HOMILY
Priests’ Anniversary of Ordination Mass – June 6, 2024
2 Timothy 2, 8-15  —  Mark 12:28-34 

Jesus was asked a single question in today’s gospel to which he gave two answers.  “Which is the first of all the commandments?”  …  “Love the Lord your God with all your being – and love your neighbor as yourself.” 

In combining two commandments from the Old Testament, one from the book of Deuteronomy and the other from the book of Leviticus – love of God and love of neighbor – Jesus, in effect, provides us with a blueprint for authentic discipleship.  Yes, love God as the author of life and salvation.  But recognize that through the incarnation, the human person has been given the grace to reflect God, having been created in God’s very image and likeness, and thereby deserving the same selfless, sacrificial love that we attempt to return to the author of life.

Simply put, how do we love God whom we cannot see when we can’t seem to respect or love the neighbor whom we see every day.  Recall the words from the 25th chapter of Saint Matthew’s gospel and the judgment of the nations, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or naked or ill or in prison?”  And we know the answer, don’t we?  “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers or sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Today, the Church of Scranton has the privilege of honoring a number of priests who have not only understood the heart of the great commandment that Jesus shares in today’s gospel – but who have lived it well in their service of the People of God.  …  We have the privilege of honoring a group of men who have sought to love selflessly, patterning their lives on the life and love of Jesus, and in the process have brought so many of us to a deeper sense of meaning, life and peace in our lives.

We celebrate the priestly ministry and service of ten priests who are celebrating noteworthy anniversaries this year, many of whom have joined us for today’s Mass:  Monsignor Constantine Siconolfi, who has served for 65 years, Father John Albosta, for 60 years, Fathers Richard Beck, Samuel Ferretti, Patrick McLaughlin and John Poplawski, who have served for 50 years, and Fathers Anthony Generose, Arbogaste Satoun, Peter O’Rourke and Andrew Sinnott, who have served for 25 years. 

Teaching us to pray, struggling to pray themselves, celebrating the Eucharist, proclaiming the Gospel, administering the Sacraments, walking with the People of God – these are the merciful works that enabled these priests to speak to us, in word and deed, about God, about grace and about the deepest hopes that rest within our hearts.  …  These merciful works make the Church credible!  …  And these works, along with countless others that at times are extremely mundane and hardly seem priestly in nature, have all been embraced by our jubilarians with the simple purpose of keeping our parishes vibrant and focused on the mission of the gospel of Jesus – the proclamation of the good news of God’s mercy. 

Are these priests perfect examples of discipleship?  No.  None of us are.  Yet, they so powerfully reflect the words of Saint Paul in today’s first reading from his second letter to Timothy, written while he was in prison for preaching the gospel.  Our brothers understand well that even though far too many pay little heed to the message of Jesus, it is their – our – responsibility to preach in season and out and to “keep reminding people” of the message of life and salvation.

A few years ago, Pope Francis addressed a letter to priests, whom he describes as “working in the trenches” exposed to countless difficulties.  Listen to the thoughts that he shared, “I want to say a word to each of you who, often without fanfare and at personal cost, amid weariness, infirmity and sorrow, carry out your mission of service to God and to your people.  …  Despite the hardships of the journey, you are writing the finest pages ever written about the priestly life.”

“Writing as an older brother and a father,” the Holy Father continued, “I want to thank you in the name of the holy and faithful People of God for all that you do for them” and “to encourage you never to forget the words that the Lord spoke to us with great love on our ordination day: ‘I no longer call you servants…I call you friends.’”

 On behalf of the people of the Diocese of Scranton, I congratulate our jubilarians and I thank them – and all our priests – for their service to the Church and to the Lord Jesus who is its heart.  …  I thank them for their commitment in joyful moments and in challenging times.  …  I thank them for leading us through change and upheaval to harmony and peace.  …  And I thank them for ever reminding us of God’s presence in our lives – in the great gift of the Eucharist – in the Word proclaimed – and in the Church, the People of God from among whom every priest is called and with whom every priest is privileged to journey in faith.

Previous Homilies 2024

 

Closing Mass of Saint Michael Church, Simpson June 2, 2024

Ordination to the Diaconate May 25,  2024

Day of Atonement and Healing – April 11, 2024

Easter Sunday March 31, 2024

Chrism Mass March 26, 2024

Palm Sunday March 24, 2024

2024 Lenten Deanery Holy Hour National Eucharistic Revival

Saint Patrick’s Parade Day Mass March 9, 2024

Commissioning of Lay Ministers March 3, 2024

Rite of Election February 18, 2024

Ash Wednesday February 14, 2024 

World Day of the Sick Mass February 12, 2024

Mass for those with Developmental Disabilities February 11, 2024 

Mass for Giving Thanks to God for the Gift of Human Life January 21, 2024 

Our Lady of Alta Gracia January 21, 2024 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time          

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time January 14, 2024 Donor Appreciation Mass 

Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord January 7, 2024