Homily – Deacon Greg Maskarinec – 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
There’s a saying for people of faith…there are no coincidences, only aspects of God’s providence that have not yet been fully understood. On this 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, God speaks to us about the necessity of taking up our cross and following Jesus. Earlier today on this 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Blessed Mother Teresa was canonized as Saint Teresa of Calcutta…the perfect example of someone in our own time who picked up her cross and followed Jesus. My sisters and brothers, it is not coincidence that these readings fall on the same day as Blessed Mother Teresa’s canonization. Rather, it is a personal invitation form the Father Himself to each and every one of us to enter into the divine mystery of His Son’s cross…just as Mother Teresa did.
First, let’s consider the Gospel passage that we just heard. If we want to be a disciple of Jesus we must recognize the cost of discipleship and make a conscious decision to take up our cross and follow Jesus. Nothing, neither relationships nor material possessions, can stand in the way of our total commitment to God. And once we make the decision to follow Jesus we must never give up or turn back. When it comes to sports, education or career we’re often willing to make great sacrifices in pursuit of our goals. But when it comes to our spiritual lives we’re often willing to make great sacrifices in pursuit of our goals. But when it comes to our spiritual lives, we’re often reluctant to take up our cross and follow Jesus. Saint John Paul II made the following observation: “In our days many baptized Christians have not yet made their faith their own in an adult or conscious way…they call themselves Christians yet do not respond in a fully responsible way to the grace they have received.” So how should we respond to the grace God has given us in Baptism? By accepting the fact that through our Baptism we have been given a share, not only in the Resurrection of Jesus, but also in His Passion and death. Yes, by taking up our cross and following Jesus. The cross comes in different forms. It might be the death of a loved one, an addiction, unemployment, sickness, loneliness, or maybe helping someone carry their cross. And, as we carry our cross, we are to keep in mind that as people of faith there are no coincidences, only aspects of God’s providence that we do not yet understand. There is meaning in the cross that we take up; meaning that we might not understand on our earthly journey. The uncertainty and apparent senselessness of the cross often becomes a bigger cross that we are called to carry. Yet, we must persevere.
Let’s turn now to Saint Teresa of Calcutta, as she is now called. Saint Teresa of Calcutta is the perfect example of someone who picked up her cross, renounced her possessions and followed Jesus. born in Albania in 1910, Mother Teresa left her homeland at 18 years old because she realized that the gift of her faith was so wonderful that it had to be shared with others. She joined the Sisters of Loretto in Ireland and remained there fore 11 years before being assigned to Calcutta, India as a teacher. 18years later, Mother Teresa received her “call within a call” to establish a religious community, the Missionaries of Charity, dedicated to serving the poorest of the poor. She began every day with Jesus in the Eucharist, and then armed with a rosary, Mother Teresa went out into the slums of Calcutta to seek out those who had been forgotten and neglected by society. At the end of the solemn profession of a sister of the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa would give a cross to each Sister as a reminder that faith involves a surrender of the whole person to Jesus and that sacrifice is not sacrifice unless it costs, unless it hurts, and unless it empties us of ourselves. Above the altar in each of the chapels of the Missionaries of Charity is a crucifix with the words “I Thirst.” These words were uttered by Jesus as he hung on the cross. Jesus thirsted that the will of His Father, the salvation of souls, be accomplished. Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity set out every day in thirst of souls among the poor, the forgotten and the outcasts. Their thirst for souls guides all of their daily activities. Not only did Mother Teresa pick up her cross and follow Jesus by ministering to the poorest of the poor, but she often experienced doubt, loneliness and the temptation to return to life in the convent. However, once she made the decision to follow Jesus, Mother Teresa never turned back.
I’m really excited about the canonization of Saint Teresa of Calcutta and I hope that you are too. I got up at 4:00 AM this morning to watch the canonization. Saint Teresa of Calcutta is a real person to me, not that the other Saints aren’t real, but she’s real in the following ways:
First, my life has overlapped in time with hers. And Second, I know people who have met Mother Teresa. I have been blessed with an opportunity to serve the poor and to pray with the Missionaries of Charity in Norristown, some of whom have lived with Mother Teresa. And yes, in the chapel above the altar hands a crucifix with the words “I Thirst”. Our own Monsignor Murray walked an talked with Mother Teresa in Philadelphia at the Eucharistic Congress in 1976. And my wife, a nurse, shook her hand when Mother Teresa came to George Washington University Hospital to visit an HIV-AIDS ward in 1985. At the time of their meetings, none of these people knew that Mother Teresa would one day be raised up as a Saint for taking up her cross and following Jesus.
For people of faith there are no coincidences, only aspects of God’s providence that have not yet been fully understood. We have come together and God has spoken to us about taking up our cross and following Jesus. We also witnessed God’s action in raising up Mother Teresa as a Saint in our own lifetime to be an example of how to take up our cross and follow Jesus. There is NO question that God’s providence is behind these two events that have taken place on the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2016. The only question that remains is…will we accept the Father’s invitation to enter into the divine mystery of His Son’s Cross, not fully understanding where our cross might lead us and armed only with faith and hope?
Saint Teresa of Calcutta, patron Saint of our Regional Catholic School, Pray for us!