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!