Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary- Homilies

"Lives of Authentic Wisdom and Faith are Built Upon an Encounter with the 'Great Love'"
Homily for
the Ascension of the Lord
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon

5 June 2011
Year A 

The movie “Of Gods and Men” portrays the dilemma of French Trappist Monks in Algeria during the country’s civil conflict of the mid-90’s. The monks are forced to rediscover their vocation and are faced with the ultimate challenge: leave Algeria and abandon their people or stay and face martyrdom. At one point in the film, a Muslim girl asks one of the monks what it is like to fall in love. The monk, Brother Luc, responds with these words: “there is something inside you that comes alive, the presence of someone. It’s irrepressible and makes your heart beat faster. It’s an attraction, a desire.” The girl then asks Brother Luc if he has ever been in love. He answers: “yes, several times. And then I encountered another love, even greater. And I answered that love.” This greater love became an attraction for Brother Luc, a desire so deep in his heart that he had to follow it, find out what it is and get to know it. In so doing, Brother Luc, along with the other monks in Algeria were able to rediscover – in mind and heart – that Great Love in the midst of the danger around them.

Chapter 17 of St. John’s Gospel is called the Priestly Prayer of Jesus. In this moving dialogue, Jesus, as Priest, offers Himself to the Father and provides for us a teaching, a model for prayer. The Priestly Prayer can be broken down into three parts. In part one Jesus prays to the Father for the glorification of His human nature and the acceptance of the cross. In the second part He prays for the disciples for their courage to bear witness to Him in the world. In the third part He prays for unity among all those who believe. Overall, this is a prayer, an expression of love from the Heart of Christ. He shows the depths of His love for His disciples as He prays for them to the Father. In essence, His prayer is that the disciples know the Father as He knows them because in knowing the Father they will find the true meaning of love for this knowledge is eternal life. The disciples enjoy the privilege of hearing this teaching first hand. From it, they learn the true nature of Jesus’ divinity – that He came from the Father.

The Christian, who is also a disciple of Jesus – acquires this same knowledge of God and of divine things through living a life of faith and maintaining a personal relationship with Christ. This knowledge, however, is not so much a knowledge that comes from books – though that should not be cast aside – but rather it is given by God who illumines and fills our mind and heart, our will and understanding with love. By the light of this love, a Christian has a more intimate and joyful knowledge of God and the mysteries of the divine. It prepares us, St. Thomas Aquinas teaches, for “a certain experience of the sweetness of God.” This knowledge is directly connected to the Holy Spirit’s Gift of Wisdom. Of this gift, Dominican Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange teaches:

“The gift of wisdom, the principle of a living contemplation that directs action, enables the soul to taste the goodness of God, to see it manifested in all events, even in the most painful, since God permits evil only for a higher good…”

Living our faith in this way, like the saints, we will be illumined by God’s grace to understand the real meaning of the events of life, whether small or great. We will see more opportunities to be merciful, peaceful, and try to live in greater harmony with each other. We will not consider illness a burden nor wallow in our sufferings for in them we will see – with the eyes of faith and a heart aflame with love – the blessing of the cross.

Wisdom of this sort, a deeply rooted knowledge of God, begins with the initial attraction, the desire for that greater love. This is perhaps what Brother Luc and the other monks experienced as they witnessed the oppression and danger building up around them. As they struggled with their dilemma, God gave them the opportunity to rediscover their calling, their vocation; they rediscovered that Great Love and they came alive.

We too must discover this Great Love. It must be an attraction, a desire in order for it to come alive in our lives of faith. But to do so we must make time to express our affection for God, we must set aside time for our own personal dialogue with Him. In so doing, then we too will encounter that Great Love and be able to answer Him. May the Gift of the Holy Eucharist bestow upon us the grace of having that initial encounter with this Great Love.



Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in West Springfield, MA


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