Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies

"Humility opens our Hearts and our Eyes to a deeper Faith, stronger Spirit, firm Hope, and great Love"
Homily for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
October 30, 2011
Year A

Cardinal James Gibbons, the great Catholic leader who was Archbishop of Baltimore from 1877-1921, wrote a book about the priesthood called Ambassadors of Christ.  In that book, he quotes Old Wolf, a Cheyenne Native American chief who had encountered the Catholic faith through Jesuit missionaries, whom the Native Americans called “Black Robes.” This is how Old Wolf describes the gift of the priesthood to the community of believers:
“In the land of the Cheyenne’s, there is a mountain higher than all the mountains around him. All the Cheyenne’s know that mountain; even our forefathers knew him. When children, we ran around wheresoever’s we wanted. We were never afraid to lose our way so long as we could see that mountain, which would show us home again. When grown up, we followed the buffalo and the elk we cared not where we pursued the running deer, so long as the mountain was in sight; for we knew he was ever a safe guide, and never failed his duty. When men; we fought the Sioux, the Crows and the white men. We went after the enemy, though the way ran high up, and low down. Our hearts trembled not on account of the road; for as long as we could see the mountain, we felt sure of finding our home again. When far away, our hearts leaped for joy seeing him, because he told us that our home came nearer. During the winter, the snow covered all the earth with a mantle of white; we could no longer distinguish him from other mountains except by his height, which told us he was the mountain. Sometimes dark clouds gathered above. They hid his head from our view, and out of them flew fiery darts, boring holes in his sides. The thunder shook him from head to foot; but the storm passed away, and the mountain stood forever. This mountain is the Black-robe. His heart is as firm as rock. He changes not. He speaks to us the words of truth. We are always sure of our path, when we look to him for guidance. He has taught us in the summer of his days. And even now, when his head is whitened by the snows of many winters, and his face is wrinkled by the storms of life, we still recognize him as our spiritual chief. He is the mountain that leads us up to God.”

The wisdom of Old Wolf reminds offers a great insight into the true identity and nature of the priesthood. Priests are sacramentally configured to Christ and charged by His authority to act in His person. He acts as bridge between God and man. The priest, by virtue of his ordination and his ministry, brings God to us and us to God. Calling priests, ‘Father,’ is quite appropriate because, we have to remember that the spiritual fatherhood of priests is real, that it comes from God and has effect in our lives. Perhaps, a man from this parish will one day dawn the black robe of the priesthood, as once described by Old Wolf.

There is, in my opinion, one aspect of the priesthood that is most striking. St. Paul highlights this in the second reading: “With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well.” This is the singular most remarkable characteristic of the priesthood. It is not a job, it is not simply a duty, it is the gift of one’s self to the Lord for the sake of the salvation of His people. In that gift of one’s total being, the priest manifests God’s amazing passion for us because in each priest, in each celebration of the sacraments, God gives Himself to us, He reaches out to us to show us the way of holiness, the way of salvation. In the sacraments and in the priests who offer them, God shows us His heart – none being greater than in the Eucharist. He wants all of us to be taken up into His own heart, into His love.

We can contrast that which St. Paul says in his letter to the Thessalonians with that of the Pharisees in the Gospel. The Pharisees are not humble, they are proud and their attitude is not one of kindness and gentleness. They say: “do as I say and not as I do.” St. Paul, on the other hand, was kind and gentle. That gentleness is a sign of the tender love of the Father, as St. Paul adds, like “a nursing mother cares for her children.” To be touched by this gentleness, to experience this love of the Father is altogether very humbling. We cannot help to be humble because God’s love is so overwhelming. The key is to recognize how that love is made known to us through the celebration of the sacraments as administered by the Church’s priests. The first part of this humility is to believe that God is so passionate about us that He wants to reveal Himself in these ways. The second part of this humility is to receive Him, receive Him with purity of heart, and receive Him with an open heart – a heart that is willing to be touched by His grace.

Too often, however, pride stands in the way. Humility opens our hearts and our eyes to a deeper faith, stronger spirit, firm hope, and great love. In order to have this humility, we first must be able to see with eyes of faith how God works in and through His priests – in spite of their humanity. And secondly, acquire a supernatural vision of faith. Old Wolf provides the necessary groundwork for such vision. The mountain is not so much the priest what the priest truly represents. The mountain is our home, our true home, our heavenly home. The priest is the guide to that mountain. As Old Wolf described, the mountain keeps us safe, gives us comfort, guides us on our way, gives us joy and peace. This is the humility that is required for the kingdom. It is a virtue that allows us to be open to God’s grace. As Dominican Father Henri Lacordaire desribes:
“Pride aspired to be first, humility aspires to the lowest rank. Pride desired to be king, humility desires to be servant…for think not that the object of humility is to abase us; its object is to raise us.”
As the Eucharist is elevated at the moment of the consecration may our gaze turn to Him who is our Mountain; may He show us our pride, the areas in our lives that need His mercy, may we have the necessary humility to allow ourselves to be moved by His grace and may He strengthen our faith with His boundless love.







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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