Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies

Homily for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
October 21st, 2012
Year B

Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman wrote a powerful prayer that captures a childlike trust and dependency on God. It also has a profound insight into our human condition and reminds us that we are at the service and mercy of God.
Lord, you have created me to do you some definite service; you have committed some work to me which you have not committed to another. I have my mission-I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for your purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his. If, indeed, I fail, you can raise another, as you could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. You have not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do your work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but your commandments and serve you in my calling. Therefore, I will trust you. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve you; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve you; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve you. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond me. You do nothing in vain; you may prolong my life, you may shorten it; you know what you are about. You may take away my friends, you may throw me among strangers, you may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink; hide the future from me-still you know what you are about. Amen.

I like this prayer because it speaks about life, particularly the difficulties we face. Often, we find ourselves in tough situations, having to endure all sorts of trials and we may not understand why. It is almost as if he is asking questions such as: why do good people suffer? Newman puts into a perspective that elevates our sorrow because he makes it a prayer. St. Thomas Aquinas reminds us that prayer unites us to God. It is more than its simple definition: the raising of the heart and mind to God. Prayer, particularly the prayer of the sorrowful and the suffering, is such that it unites us to Him who suffered for us.

The prophet Isaiah speaks of that suffering in today’s first reading. “Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many.” The suffering servant of Isaiah is, indeed, a foreshadowing of the suffering Christ. It was one of the ways Isaiah, writing 600 years before Christ, told us about how the Messiah would come to save us – through suffering. Jesus affirms Isaiah’s prophecy in His reply to the request of the Apostles, James and John. They really do not know what they are asking. They think the reign of the Messiah will come about through mighty deeds and they want front row seats. Jesus doesn’t necessarily rebuke them rather, He lays out a condition: drink His cup and be baptized in His baptism. In the Jewish tradition, to share a cup was not merely allowing someone to have a sip of your water. It had a profound, symbolic meaning – that of identifying oneself with another, to accept full unification with another. Baptism has its own connotations. To be fully immersed in water was considered disastrous by the people of Jesus’ time. Think of Noah and the flood. Here, Jesus is making an allusion to His passion, to His suffering. He is telling them that God’s mercy and salvation – the reign of His kingdom – will only come through suffering, death, and resurrection.

Yet, this idea of suffering still plagues the human mind. We have a natural aversion to any sort of pain or affliction. In my own life, I have experienced this myself – even as a priest and at young age – having been forced into a difficult situation that I knew would be a struggle from the start. Most of us, as I did, try to keep a positive outlook in spite of the known difficulty only to discover later that it was worse than what you had originally anticipated. Then does the question arise: “why?” Why must I suffer? Why me? Why now? I discovered that I’m not a very good sufferer; that I don’t particularly like it. And when the difficulty I faced, the battle I fought, finally came to end, I felt like I failed. My mind was not focused on uniting my trial to Christ, my suffering was not elevated and made into a prayer. It was the Church’s teaching on redemptive suffering that pulled me out of myself:
CCC #618: “…He calls his disciples to ‘take up [their] cross and follow (him)’, for ‘Christ also suffered for (us), leaving (us) an example so that (we) should follow in his steps.’ … This is achieved supremely in the case of his mother, who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of his redemptive suffering. Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.”

Thus, the Church reminds us that suffering is redemptive – redeeming value, merit… in other words, when we suffer well, when we bring our sorrows to Jesus and turn them into a prayer we gain points in heaven. The trials of life, the difficulties we face and must endure, sufferings of all kind have the power, by God’s grace, to unite us to God, make us more like Christ and we become more closely identified with Him.Let us have the courage, as Newman prayed, to turn our lives – the good and the bad, the known and unknown, our sorrow and our suffering, into prayer, into service of God. As such, we will then find Christ, become like Him and so climb the ladder that ascends to heaven.





Fr. Jon Reardon




Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.



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