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The following is the homily from the Pink Mass celebrated on Sept. 27, 2014 at St. Michael Cathedral in Springfield.
By Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski
Diocese of Springfield, MA
Philippians 2: 1-5
Matthew 21: 28-32
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, it is a privilege to gather
with you today to share in this Mass as we pray for all those who are
burdened by the diagnosis of cancer, for their caregivers in their
families, friends and in the professional medical field. I also greet
those who are joining us today by television as our Chalice of
Salvation Mass is broadcast from St. Michael Cathedral.
Whenever we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, we are conscious of
the hope that is given to us in Christ Jesus as our Savior. Jesus’
words in last week’s Gospel as well as in this week’s are not easy to
hear and comprehend. Recall that in last Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus
tells us of the landowner who called the workers into his field at
various parts of the day. Those who were called at a late hour got
paid first and they received a full day’s wage. When the workers
who had started in the morning received their pay, much to their
disappointment, they received the same wage as the latecomers.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells of the two sons who had different
reactions to their father’s request. The first son refused and then
went into the field. The second son simply responded “yes” for
convenience sake and then did not obey his father’s wishes. If we
are to truly understand this story of Jesus, we have to comprehend
the Middle Eastern culture of Jesus’ day. A conversation between
the father and his sons would not have taken place in private, but
within earshot of his neighbors or other family members. To the
people of that time, showing respect would have top priority in their
Many people would have taken the side of the second son who, on
the surface, acceded to his father’s wish, but then chose not to go
into the field. At least publicly, he showed respect to his father.
But Jesus does not ask the question in that way. He inquires,
“Which of the two did his father’s will?” In other words, which son
went beyond the mere show of respect to actually live out what was
asked of him?”
And so, Jesus asks us the same question, “Are we willing to totally
give our lives for God or do we give Him a mere hour on Sunday?”
My brothers and sisters, we gather today to pray for those who
are struggling with the cross of suffering in their lives in the form
of cancer. Neither the disease nor the treatment is an easy burden.
In this suffering, it is certainly convenient to identify with the words
of the people in the first reading today who complain to God
that the His ways are not fair. None of us really wants to
have the burden of illness affect us and yet, illness is so much a part
of our human condition. But Jesus always reminds us that we do
not carry our burdens alone. Certainly He who was willing to
accept the cross for us, is with us in our struggles.
He who had experienced the burden of betrayal and abandonment
also knows the hearts of His people. And so today, we take great
comfort in our Savior who walks with us and gives to us so many
people in our lives to remind us that we are never alone. Our
gathering today illustrates the power of our prayers in caring for
one another and helping to ease the burdens of all those who endure
not only the disease of cancer, but bravely face their treatments in
the form of chemotherapy, radiation and other means that are being
used to treat this disease. Some years ago, a very wise elderly
person who was undergoing cancer therapy treatments told me that
it was not the illness that frustrated or scared her, but the thought
of going through it alone. She had felt alienated in her suffering.
Yet, through the care of her devoted family and friends, she was not
alone in her struggles and, in their care, she also re-discovered the
care that God has for her.
What a transforming and uplifting experience during the most
difficult time of her life in that she truly felt God’s love for her.
In our second reading today, St. Paul speaks of that
transformative love that is found with our solidarity in Christ and
with one another. “If there is any encouragement in Christ, any
solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and
mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same
love, united in heart, thinking one thing.” “Have in you the same
attitude that is also in Christ Jesus.”
Dear friends, when we are together, when we are united in
Christ, we know that we can face the burdens of life, even the illness
of cancer. None of us knows what lies ahead in life, but we can
always be assured of the merciful presence of Jesus, who took our
struggles as His own and makes all illness redemptive. To Him be
all the praise and glory! Amen!
By Steve & Michelle O’Leary
Editor’s note: The following blog is a submission from the Worldwide Marriage Encounter and focuses on being aware of difference and how to communicate.
We are two separate beings with individual backgrounds, tastes, experiences and personalities. This merger of individual identities is the confluence that blends two separate streams of consciousness into the river of marriage. Even though I respect and admire Michelle more than anyone I have ever met, she still frequently frustrates me to the point of exasperation. She is a bewildering mix of quandaries, enigmas, contradictions and vexations. And I am no better. We are two unique individuals with opposing personalities and habits.
One glaring example is the time we spend in the bathroom. In the morning, Stephen typically showers, shaves and gets dressed all in 10 minutes or so; 15 tops if he is taking his time. But I, however, use considerably more time and resources getting ready for the day. Because I like my showers so hot I sometimes overheat, so of course I need to cool down before I start with my hair or getting dressed. This time when I appear to be doing nothing frustrates Stephen, especially when there is a deadline.
Of course, the end result is a lot nicer than how I turn out. In many things we do, we are diametrically opposed. For instance, whenever we go to a large gathering, I can promise you that the absolute strangest person in the room will approach Michelle and talk to her. She really enjoys chatting with different kinds of people who approach her. I, on the other hand, tend to discourage these interactions. Frankly, they make me a little nervous.
I can be really disorganized whereas Stephen likes to know where everything is. Being late is not something about which I get worked up and Stephen feels anything later than 5 minutes early is disrespectful. I like fruits and vegetable and Stephen prefers meat and potatoes. I am more loving and intuitive and Stephen is more analytical and logical. I am flexible to change and comfortable in the face of surprises, but Stephen needs to be prepared and organized in order to feel comfortable.
However, because we recognize the value of these differences, we are able to our own strengths to compensate for and even complement the other’s weaknesses. It makes us a formidable team, both in our ministries as well as in our marriage. We believe that as a team, we are stronger than as a sum of our parts. While her differences may annoy me from time to time, I have come to understand the value they bring to our relationship. We have worked out our roles in marriage so they are complementary, allowing us to thrive by working together instead of against one another.
This does not mean that we are not equal partners, or that one is more dominant than the other. Equality in our relationship does not mean sameness – it means each of us is valued for the contribution we bring to the table. In fact, the very differences we have are perhaps our greatest strengths when they are recognized and used effectively instead of being at odds with one another.
How do our personality differences impact our ability to work as a team? Describe in Loving Detail.
By Jessica Dupont
Editor’s note: Jessica is offering her reflections while participating in a Catholic Relief Services’ trip to Burnundi. This is her second reflection.
Joy, peace and love – those three words can mean something different to everyone. I have often
looked at wall decorations that simply state those three words and thought, “I can relate to that as three important guiding principles in my life.”
However, little did I know how incomplete my connection to those words truly was until these past few days in Burundi.
On second day in Burundi, we traveled out of the city of Bujumbura to visit three Batwa villages in the Bubanza province that are supported by the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) funded project, Action Batwa. Action Batwa is a project run by Fr. Elias Mwebembezi, one of the Missionary Fathers of Africa (the group also known as the White Fathers). Action Batwa’s mission is to assist the Batwa in being lifted out of the desperate poverty in which they find themselves. Socially outcast by Burundian society, the Batwa live in relative isolation from the rest of the population. We began our day in the Batwa village of Butanuka. Even before the car stopped, we were surrounded by the people of the village eager to greet us. Everyone wanted to shake our hands to express thanks for our visit. As we walked with them up the hill to the village, they sang the most beautiful song of joy, dancing and thanking Jesus for bringing us to visit them.
Once in the village, they showed us with great pride the homes that they had built with the assistance of Action Batwa. We spent a great deal of time with the people of Butanuka, seeing the beautiful community they had built and learning about the successful SILC (Savings and Internal Lending Community) project that had been instituted with the training assistance of CRS.
As we made our way to the villages of Kukabami and Musenyi, the greetings and the experiences were much the same: incredible joy as well as incredible pride in the homes that they had built and the village that they had established. All the work done with Action Batwa had put their needs and their opinions first, a concept that is central to method in which CRS operates. This experience exemplified our Catholic social teaching call to solidarity as well as subsidiarity. As Catholics, we must deepen our understanding of these concepts and seek out ways to live them in our own lives. It is not only the people of the Batwa villages that I will keep with me when I leave this place, but the lasting example of these important social teaching concepts in action and the amazing ways they can change people’s lives.
As we began day three, we came together as a group to have breakfast and share in Mass- binding our experiences here in Africa with our living faith. By late morning, we were on our way to visit the Missionaries of Charity at Kajaga. Founded by Mother Theresa their mission is to care for the poorest and most vulnerable in our world. At this site they care for children who have been abandoned as well as adults who are in need of their care. The sister who is in charge of this community has the most beautiful and calming peace as she greeted us and welcomed us to her community. Sister brought us around, introducing us to the children in her care as well as the adults. With a child in her arms, she moved from building to building with a peaceful and graceful presence that can only be experienced firsthand to be fully appreciated. In our group reflection that evening, one among us even commented that at times she appeared to be gliding. And here again, I’m confronted with my own previous limited perspective of what peace truly means. As we moved from the children’s buildings in the community to the buildings where to adults lived, Sister stopped in the chapel to pray and reflect. It was an unspoken reminder to hold peace in our hearts and that through prayer and reflection it can be achieved even when it seems most difficult.
Love has been a theme since arriving in Burundi for me. I witnessed it in Fr. Elias as he greeted each of the Batwa communities. I also saw the love each and every one of them had for him, and to a certain extent, for us as well. It is because of this love that Fr. Elias has committed his life to helping the Batwa live good and dignified lives as our faith tells us all people should. I saw the incredible love the children at the Missionaries of Charity had for the religious sister and the volunteers. As we toured the grounds, Sister had with her a small baby who had been crying when we walked into the nursery. The minute she scooped him up, he clung to her with his precious hands and looked up at her with the kind of love only a child can give. Lastly, the love and devotion I found in the Sister and volunteers at the Missionaries of Charity, the incredible care and respect they have for each life they care for is a perfect embodiment of the way God calls us all to love one another: all human life is to be loved and respected.
And so, when back home, my impression of those three simple words: Joy, Peace & Love, will be forever changed and will always bring me back to Burundi and remind me of the Batwa, Fr. Elias and the Missionaries of Charity and all that they are truly living out Christ’s call.
For more information on CRS SILC projects please visit: http://crs.org/united-states/introducing-savings-led-microfinance/
Editor’s note: Kathryn Buckley-Brawner (right in photo above), director of the Springfield Diocese’s Catholic Charities Agency and a parishioner of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Granby, and Jessica Dupont, a parishioner of Immaculate Conception Parish in Holyoke, are traveling to Burundi with Catholic Relief Services. Jessica, the daughter of Catholic Communications Mark Dupont, offers this reflection.
By Jessica Dupont
After 25 long hours of travel, the CRS Diocesan Team Delegation to Burundi landed at7:10 PM on the hot, humid night of September 10th. Forty-five minutes of paperwork, fever checks, and baggage claim fun, we were on our way into the dark Burundi evening. Given the darkness, my first experience of the country was the not of the sights but rather the sounds of humming insects and the smells of fires. Bujumbara, the capital city of Burundi, would be our home for the next 7 days.
After a much needed night’s sleep, our group was ready to embark on day 1 of our journey in country. Many of us shared the wonderful experience of being woken by the beautiful sounds of Mass being celebrated in the center of the Mont Sion Retreat center where we are staying. Even from a distance, the joy and enthusiasm with which the participants celebrated God’s word was breath-taking. As a group, we began our day celebrating Mass in a small outdoor gazebo. As a small breeze passed through while we worshiped, there was no doubt that the Holy Spirit was with us, giving us strength and encouragement for the journey ahead.
Following Mass and breakfast, we spent the remainder of our morning with the Catholic Relief Service’s (CRS) Burundi Country staff at their offices. They provided incredibly knowledgeable information regarding the major projects CRS is currently funding here in country, several of which we will be fortunate enough to go and witness first hand in the coming days. It is important to know that with the exception of very few individuals, all CRS country staff are Burundi themselves. To meet such passionate individuals committed to making a lasting and sustainable change in their country was inspiring. They have committed their lives, some upwards of 20 years, to the work of reversing and preventing malnutrition, fostering peace amongst ethnic groups through economic empowerment, and helping those marginalized by their society find work when their livelihood was taken from them. To me, they exemplify the work that God calls us to do each and every day to help those around us who are most in need.
The remainder of the day was spent touring the neighborhoods of Bujumbura, taking in the incredible landscape and economic diversity that makes up the capital.
Tomorrow, we will visit Action Batwa, an organization that is trying to change the social behaviors of the Batwa people of Burundi so as to allow for greater integration with Burundian society. Representing approximately 2% of the population, the Batwa are marginalized and outcast by Burundian society. For more information on the ethic groups of Burundi and their history, visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burundi