SCRANTON – As he celebrated the closing Mass of the Solemn Novena to Saint Ann, the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, told a personal story which he said emphasized the power and presence of God in his life.

It revolved around an encounter with a man experiencing homelessness on a cold winter night around Christmas. The man – who said he was hungry and needed shelter – approached the bishop as he tried to get inside the Cathedral rectory.

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, delivers the homily during the Closing Mass for the Solemn Novena July 26, 2023.

“As I was struggling with what appeared to me to be a set-up, some better angels spoke to my heart. What if he was telling me the truth? How could I turn someone away who was in such need? What would Jesus do?” Bishop Bambera told the crowd. “Maybe that was Jesus – testing me and my resolve to live as his disciple.”

After some internal struggle inside his mind, the bishop provided the man with some money to get something to eat and stay in a local hotel.

“I felt a little bit guilty for wondering about his honesty. But then I took some quiet consolation in trusting that, as best I could, I tried to be a witness to what I believe as a Christian,” Bishop Bambera explained. “Remember those words of Jesus? ‘When I was hungry, you gave me food. But when Lord? As often as you did it to the least of my brothers or sisters, you did it to me!’”

The bishop said every person gathered at the Closing Mass of the Novena has likely had a moment like the one he experienced at his backdoor last winter.

“For me, that exchange became an unexpected moment that was filled with the presence of God. God was teaching me a lesson about all that is possible when we set aside our selfish, self-centered, self-righteous ways, when we seek to forgive, and when we let Jesus guide us forward,” he said. “Every one of us has been and continues to be touched by the presence of God in our lives when we least expect that presence to grasp hold of our hands and hearts. And every one of us can recount a moment in our lives – perhaps even during this treasured Novena – in which we were blessed to encounter the presence of God.”

As he ended the Novena, Bishop Bambera urged the faithful to follow the path that the Lord desires.

“God continues to use unlikely individuals like (Saints) Ann and Joachim, like Joseph and Mary, like me and you, to accomplish his purpose in our world – to give hope – and to proclaim a message of life, salvation, mercy and peace,” he said.