Thursday September 27, 2007
September 26, 2007
Given by Fr. John Lee from the Oblates of Mary, From south England,
14 years as a priest, Owes his priesthood to coming to Medjugorje
I would just like to share with you a funny encounter that I had with a woman some months ago. I was attending a one day workshop, a one day conference on stewardship. I was sitting beside this wife, mother, grandmother, a very nice lady. We got to chatting together during the coffee break, and then after a minute she discovered that she was talking to a priest. The body language changed. The eyebrows arched and the lower jaw dropped about an inch, and she crossed her arms. She said to me, “Are you really a priest?” I said, “I am.” I was wondering what on earth I had said wrong. She looked at me again and said, “Are you really a priest?” I said, “I am.” She sort of poked me with her ring finger and she said, “But you’re normal!” I thought to myself, I don’t think my parishioners would say that.
“We remember today two people who were like any other normal human beings. I don’t think anyone is born a martyr. We know next to nothing about Cosmas and Damien ( today is their feast day), but we know that very early on they were honored as martyrs. I believe that there is a beautiful church somewhere dedicated to their memory. It’s very interesting for two people that we know so little about. We continue to invoke their memory every time we pray one of the Eucharistic prayers at the Mass – Eucharistic prayer number one. So what was special about Cosmas and Damien? Well, I guess we can assume that at some point in time they were present at a gathering where they heard tales of a Jewish carpenter who became an itinerant preacher. They heard tales about His parables and the miracles that He would perform. They heard all about what He had to say about the kingdom and about the call to conversion. I guess, we can assume, that somewhere in that journey their hearts were seized by Jesus. We can assume also in that journey that they made a decision to enter more fully into the mystery of Jesus, by accepting the crown of martyrdom. It’s not a normal thing to do; it’s an extraordinary act which calls upon huge reserves of love, courage and faith. That is why we remember them today.
“Sometimes when I am dealing with families who have lost a loved one, I ask a question, “What will Frank, Mary, George, or Angela, what will they be remembered for?” It is a very hard thing to do, if you were to try and put it into a sentence or two. What would you say that they would be remembered for? I would like to put that question to you today at this Mass, “What will you be remembered for?” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our epitaph said something like this: “Here was John. At the visitation, he became a bright light, a spark amongst the rubble.” Isn’t that what Mary is inviting us to become here in Medjugorje? To become bright lights, to become bright sparks amongst the rubble that we live in and, at times, trying to survive. In other words, wouldn’t it be wonderful to be remembered by the faith that we have tried to live by, with all of its joys, with all of its struggles. To be able to say at the end of the day, that it was worth it. We have much to thank the martyrs for. Not just Cosmas and Damien, whose feast we celebrate today, but all those men, all of our ancestors, who in the face of suffering and death, chose life eternal, chose faith, chose the life that Jesus offered over and above everything else.
“You know, as well as I do, that trying to live our faith today is no easy thing. It is a very difficult thing. We would be naÃ¯ve to think otherwise. We are presented with some very very real challenges. For just a minute or two, I would like to touch on one of those challenges that I encounter a lot in Medjugorje – that is the challenge of suffering. It is one of those things that we find a lot especially when we are administering the sacrament of Reconciliation, which is a very privileged part of a priest’s work. I know Bishop Brendan spoke very beautifully and very eloquently about this sacrament yesterday. But we come across suffering in Medjugorje and in other places as well. As we were climbing KriÅ¾evac, I felt that I was suffering the whole way down. We went up there the other day. God tests our faith by suffering, by allowing us to suffer. That would be true to my own experience. This is not something that I dug out of a book for this Mass today.
“Three years ago before I came here to Medjugorje, I lost my youngest sister to cancer. I remember at the time, like I’m sure so many of you, that I begged and pleaded with Almighty God to spare her life. The answer to my prayer was no. It is a very hard pill to swallow. We know when we pray that the answers are sometimes yes, sometimes possibly, sometimes not yet, sometimes no, and maybe wait. I don’t believe for a minute that God wants to make us suffer, but I think that He allows it. He does not usually shield us from suffering, although He could. There is something that I think sometimes we forget, that Jesus wasn’t spared suffering either. Although He prayed to His Father to be delivered from it, that lead to His death and eventually to the cross. Please, please if there is anyone here this morning that is carrying a cross, and it is my guess that there are many of you, do not allow yourself to become discouraged or despondent. Trust in God more. Know that the Lord and Our Lady are with you in your sufferings. Allow them to show you, to help you to become more mature in your faith through the cross that you are carrying. Mary has repeated again and again here in Medjugorje that God is near. That God is always always very near to us. It remains true for us when we are on pilgrimage, and it remains true for us when we go back home.”
The above homily in relating about suffering, also relates to Our Lady's September 25th message about the “crucified”. We invite you to listen to a broadcast that was aired at 7 PM on Radio WAVE September 25th, on mej.com, that will help all those who are suffering from the crosses they are carrying.