Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, New York, NY
Saturday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Votive Mass of Blessed Oscar Romeo on the day of his Beatification
May 23, 2015
Acts 28:16-20.30-31, Ps 11, Jn 21:20-25
To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily please click below:
The following points were attempted in the homily:
- Today on this last day of the Easter Season, and on this day of the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador, we learn how to live with our end in mind. I’d like to begin with two smaller points before getting to the main one.
- The first is about curiosity. St. Peter today, right after the Lord prophesied that he would give his life for him and keep his word that, given a second chance, he would die for him rather than deny him, Peter descends from fulfilling Christ’s demand to “Follow me” to curiosity, asking what would happen to St. John. Jesus told him that it was not his concern. Peter’s business, rather, was to follow Jesus. We, too, can often be distracted by curiosity questions such that we don’t focus on what our task is. Jesus wants each of us to follow him down the path of agapic love by feed and tending his sheep and lambs. The Holy Spirit wants to help us to keep that loving focus.
- The second thing is about prayer. St. John says at the end of today’s Gospel, “There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.” We have only a small portion of Jesus’ life described and many of the scenes are presented concisely. That’s why the same Holy Spirit who inspired the sacred authors wants to help us to fill in some of the gaps through our meditation. He wants to make us aware that not all the libraries on the planet are enough to exhaust the mystery of Jesus, but in prayer we continue to enter into Jesus’ life and he into ours. This is the second thing the Holy Spirit does.
- But what I want to ponder are the four ends of life with which the Church presents us today and ponder on their meaning.
- The first is Peter’s, on which we focused yesterday. He would eventually follow the Lord Jesus all the way and join him in crucifixion, stretching out his arms and letting another drag him to the stake in the Circus of Caligula and Nero. But he prepared to be faithful to that supreme witness by the martyrdom of each day, sacrificing himself in order to tend and feed Christ’s sheep and feed his lambs. Each of those self-denials to affirm God and others in love was a preparing for the ultimate test. It’s the same way for us. We prepare for the great witness by the witness of each day, of choosing Christ each day. In this Year of Consecrated Life, as we ponder on the meaning of consecrated chaste celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, we can think about St. Ambrose’s celebrated phrase about St. Agnes and the other virgin martyrs, “Virginity is praiseworthy not because it is found in martyrs; virginity is praiseworthy because it makes martyrs.” By forsaking the beautiful goods of the sacrament of marriage and a family of your own to respond to Christ’s love in a covenantal bond, we are preparing to forsake the whole world and even our life in the world to cling to Christ, enter his kingdom, and share his eternal life. The Holy Spirit helps us to live this daily martyrdom, whether white or red, dry or wet.
- The second end is St. John’s, which we see in today’s Gospel. He writes, “It is this disciple who testifies to these things and has written them.” John spent his whole life testifying to Jesus, verbally, with his writing of the Gospel and letters, and his own life in Jesus. He lived to be very old — hence the rumor in the early Church he debunks today that he would live forever! — and St. Jerome says that the story was passed that until he died, the message he proclaimed got increasingly simpler, just repeating, over and over again, “Little children, let us love one another,” saying he never tired of repeating that message because the Lord never did. That’s what he tried to do, to love each other, in imitation of the Lord’s love. That’s what the Holy Spirit wants us to do, too.
- The third end is St. Paul’s. Today we see the end of the Acts of the Apostles. It doesn’t describe St. Paul’s martyrdom by decapitation in the forest to the south of Rome. It ends with St. Luke’s description of what he was doing under house arrest in Rome awaiting trial: “He received all who came to him, and with complete assurance and without hindrance he proclaimed the Kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” He wasn’t complaining about his imprisonment but using it for the Gospel. It shows how hospitable he was, receiving “all who came to him.” It also shows us faith and boldness, proclaiming Christ the King and his Kingdom with “complete assurance and without hindrance.” One would have thought that it was impossible to proclaim a triumphant kingdom of one who was crucified and a kingdom that involves imprisonment, but he did so with great faith. He was helped in giving this witness by the Holy Spirit who was advancing the Gospel in this way — not just then but with the future of the Church in mind — perhaps even more than he would have been had Paul been free. The Holy Spirit wants us likewise to receive everyone as dearly beloved of God and announce Christ to them without fear and full of faith.
- The fourth end is Blessed Oscar Romero whom the Church raises to the altar today. He was not a particularly bold human being, but he had studied in Rome and was a good priest, so they made him an auxiliary bishop when he was 53. Four years later he was made the Archbishop of San Salvador. He witnessed the brutal murder of innocents by the government and was timid in response, not so much because he was afraid personally as he didn’t really know what to do and didn’t want to make the situation worse. But eventually through prayer, he grasped he needed to speak up in defense of the innocent and call people who were carrying out the attacks — almost all of whom had been baptized — to conversion and faith. So he started to denounce the attacks ferociously and to call on soldiers not to obey orders to do things that are patently immoral. He was savvy enough to know that to do this was to put a bullseye on his forehead. The day of his death, March 24, 1980, was the day after he had given a very stern moral warning and appeal to soldiers not to carry out orders against the innocent. The next day he spent the morning and afternoon praying at a day of recollection organized by the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross and the Opus Dei priest, Fr. Fernando Saenz LaCalle who would eventually succeed Archbishop Romero’s successor as Archbishop. After praying and doubtless meditating on his priestly life, bringing his needs to the Lord, and receiving the Lord’s assistance, he went to celebrate Mass at the Chapel of the Sisters of Providence within a hospital. He preached on the passage, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it will bear much fruit.” As soon as he finished his homily and went to the altar, shots rang out and he was murdered as that grain of wheat, mixing his blood with the altar cloths and eventually with the sisters’ white habits. Even though he was not particularly audacious by character, he served and he died as a courageous witness of Christ. That’s what the Holy Spirit did in him. And we pray that today, God will inspire all of us — especially Salvadorans, Bishops and Priests — to imitate his cooperation with the Holy Spirit, to speak out and work against injustices against God and others and to follow Christ as the grain of wheat laying our lives down for God and others. That’s the way our life, too, will be faithful.
- So as we prepare to go from the pulpit to the altar, from the Word to the Word made flesh, having pondered the ways St. Peter, St. John, St. Paul, and Blessed Oscar lived the rest of their lives, how will we live ours?
The readings for today’s Mass were:
Reading 1 ACTS 28:16-20, 30-31
with the soldier who was guarding him.Three days later he called together the leaders of the Jews.
When they had gathered he said to them, “My brothers,
although I had done nothing against our people
or our ancestral customs,
I was handed over to the Romans as a prisoner from Jerusalem.
After trying my case the Romans wanted to release me,
because they found nothing against me deserving the death penalty.
But when the Jews objected, I was obliged to appeal to Caesar,
even though I had no accusation to make against my own nation.
This is the reason, then, I have requested to see you
and to speak with you, for it is on account of the hope of Israel
that I wear these chains.”
He remained for two full years in his lodgings.
He received all who came to him, and with complete assurance
and without hindrance he proclaimed the Kingdom of God
and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.
Responsorial Psalm PS 11:4, 5 AND 7
The LORD is in his holy temple;
the LORD’s throne is in heaven.
His eyes behold,
his searching glance is on mankind.
R. The just will gaze on your face, O Lord.
The LORD searches the just and the wicked;
the lover of violence he hates.
For the LORD is just, he loves just deeds;
the upright shall see his face.
R. The just will gaze on your face, O Lord.
Alleluia JN 16:7, 13
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I will send to you the Spirit of truth, says the Lord;
he will guide you to all truth.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel JN 21:20-25
the one who had also reclined upon his chest during the supper
and had said, “Master, who is the one who will betray you?”
When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?”
Jesus said to him, “What if I want him to remain until I come?
What concern is it of yours?
You follow me.”
So the word spread among the brothers that that disciple would not die.
But Jesus had not told him that he would not die,
just “What if I want him to remain until I come?
What concern is it of yours?”It is this disciple who testifies to these things
and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true.
There are also many other things that Jesus did,
but if these were to be described individually,
I do not think the whole world would contain the books
that would be written.