Today I had the wonderful opportunity to lead a communion service. Here is a copy of my homily from this morning. Peace!
Wednesday 31, 2017
Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
What a beautiful Gospel today! This Gospel story has inspired the Church probably from the beginning. So much Christian art has been inspired by the Visitation. In fact this beautiful story became the central devotion of St. Francis de Sales. The Magnificat is part of the prayer or the Church, part of the Liturgy of the Hours. Every evening, every bishop, priest and deacon, all the consecrated religious brothers and sisters and many lay people pray this as part of Evening prayer. St. Bede of England said it is good that the Church prays this every evening. Hopefully while meditating on this mystery, we will deepen our devotion and as we reflect on our day we deepen our resolve to live a virtuous life.
But when we come to listen to the Gospel proclaimed, we are not tourists. We do not come simply to admire and remark, “Isn’t that a lovely story!” No! Jesus proclaimed the Gospel to us including this story to challenge the way we live our lives, not to entertain us! In what ways do we proclaim God’s greatness for the blessings in our lives?
How many of us or how many of our family and friends waste a lot of time thinking about what they don’t have? Wouldn’t it be nice to drive a car like that! Or wouldn’t it be nice to have a house like theirs? Or wouldn’t it be nice to travel like they do? These types of questions could be a sign that we are experiencing non-spiritual desolation to be more specific. We might feel down or a little depressed or anxious. There’s no shame in experiencing desolation. It’s a normal part of life, but we are most vulnerable when we experience desolation. We are most vulnerable when we are down. That’s when the enemy will strike! He will kick us when we are down.
The enemy will amplify these thoughts and if we’re not careful, we will act on these thoughts. These feelings might drive people to have affairs or cheat at business. You might try to convince yourself that what you’ve done is not so bad. There are people who do worse out there. But what separates these acts of desolation from “those people” out there is only as thick as a veil.
You see, it was out of this kind of desolation that a man accosted a young girl on a train in Oregon simply because she was Muslim. Three non-Muslim men stood up to defend her and it was this same desolation that drove the man to pull a knife killing two of these men and sending a third to the hospital. It is out of this same desolation that causes terrorists to pervert the name of God and plant that bomb at a concert in Manchester killing and wounding innocent people. This same desolation is at the heart of recent terrorist attacks against Coptic Christians in Egypt a couple of days ago and against innocent Muslims in Baghdad in yesterday who were gathered at a popular ice cream parlor.
Desolation is marked by an emptiness; a dryness. This not of God. How do we overcome it? How can we protect ourselves from acting out of desolation?
We can overcome desolation by reflecting on God’s blessings in our lives. One of the beautiful gifts that St. Ignatius gave us was the Daily Examen Prayer. It is a form of the examination of conscience. St. Ignatius encourages us to pray the Examen Prayer every day! But unlike the examination of conscience, you don’t just consider the things you’ve done wrong every day. Of course we all need to reflect on our lives. How can we call ourselves disciples if we don’t reflect on our lives and commit to do better? But in the Examen Prayer you also look for ways that God blessed you that day.
Before St. Ignatius was a saint, as he was recovering from injuries after a battle, he read the lives of the saints because it was one of the only books his sister-in-law had in the house. As he read the lives of the saints, he was struck by a saint, I can’t remember who it was – maybe it was St. Francis, who on a walk one day stopped to look at a dormant tree. He knew by spring that tree would explode with new life and he thought how marvelous the Lord is! St. Ignatius was struck by this idea and came to understand that the blessings most of us receive will never be as extraordinary as Mary, but rather, our blessings will come out of the ordinary and the mundane.
When we do the Daily Examen Prayer, we try to think about those moments in our lives when God blessed us. Our blessing might simply be appreciating God’s creation all around us especially this time of year! Everything looks so lush and green because of all the rain we’ve had this month! Can you imagine? I wonder how different this world would be if we all stopped each night before bed and thought about the little ways God blessed us and we asked forgiveness the little ways we messed up.
Maybe if we stopped each day to think about how truly blessed we all really are, then we too would cry out for the greatness God in all our languages – in Arabic, allahu akbar, or Hebrew, Elohim gadol, or in English, my soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord!
- After you receive the Eucharist or a blessing, first, thank God for the gift of Jesus Christ. Then I would like you to think about all the ways God has touched your life – how God has blessed your life, maybe through your family or friends, your career, etc. How has God blessed your life.
- In these days leading up to Pentecost, I want you to pray thanks to God for all the blessings in your lives!
Got it? Get it? Are you going to do it? Good! Through the intercession of our Blessed Virgin Mary, may we come to know the mercy and the love of Jesus! In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. +Amen!